This should be the 50th year that Evelyn Ungacta has been selling her famous hot dogs at her stand in Hagåtña.
“If it wasn’t for this pandemic, I would have been here for 50 years,” said the spritely woman who first set up shop in the early 1970s.
Ungacta has returned to her spot along Marine Corps Drive oceanside, near the pavilions across from the GCIC building.
She had to close down when the pandemic hit. And while the economic impact wasn’t easy, she missed chatting with her customers, who, she said, “are like family.”
“There are some customers who came when they were much younger … Now they’re adults and have their family and children, and they bring them along,” she said. “I missed that.”
And her customers missed her as well.
“I’m glad she’s back,” said Patricia Guerrero, 85, of Maina. “I was out running errands and I was thinking of getting lunch but I didn’t want to go to the restaurant. And then I saw her and I said, ‘I know what’s for lunch.’”
Guerrero said she’s been a customer of the hot dog stand for more than two decades.
“Lyn is a hard worker,” Guerrero said. “She makes good hot dogs. The best. And it's honest work.”
Guerrero added that being out in the sun and rain isn’t easy, and for as long as Ungacta has done it, is inspiring. Guerrero added her hopes that young people look to Ungacta and others like her and learn how hard work can help you achieve much.
“She put her kids through school, through college,” Guerrero said, noting another reason she likes the hot dog stand. “I like to support local businesses that are part of the community … and based on the family.”
And it was indeed a family atmosphere at the stand with a little umbrella. Even as Guerrero awaited her order of hot dogs with chili and fixings, another longtime customer came up to Guerrero, with his ordered hot dog in hand, and paid his respects with the customary CHamoru greeting for an elder: ngingi, holding her hand and bringing his face toward it. He explained who he was, not having seen her in years, and then updated her on his parents' whereabouts and their health.
Ungacta said it’s not unusual to see friends and family converge at her hot dog stand. And it’s just another reminder of why she enjoys her work.
“For years, I did this to help my kids … This hot dog stand got them through college,” she said proudly, pointing at a collage of photos of her children when they were younger and then as adults. The stand was a product of her and her late husband's efforts to ensure their children received a good education. Former Hagåtña Mayor Felix Flores Ungacta died in 2016. And the kids have long since graduated from college.
The kids have built lives of their own and have blessed her with grandchildren, she said, pointing at their photos which she’s added to her little mural.
So why is she continuing this hot dog stand with the kids grown and off island?
“It was for my kids at first ... but now I want to try to make money for myself and get the things I want,” she said smiling.