He’s Langley’s version of the food truck guy – without the truck.
Miguel is always “that” guy, the one with a big smile on his face, a boisterous ‘hello’ to passersby, and cool music emanating from his food stand in front of the Langley Real Canadian Superstore for years. All that, and the smell of fried onions, invariably brings a smile to the faces of customers coming and going from the grocery store.
Miguel has become a real favourite for many.
Today, his popularity is apparent by the sheer number of posted notes that are currently pinned to the gate of his hotdog shack.
Since Miguel became sick about two weeks ago and was forced to close up shop – hopefully only temporarily – his fans and friends have covered the gate outside his Gypsy Bite food stand with notes, well wishes, and even a few balloons.
There are so many notes – some that have even fallen off and flown back into his concession – that the management at Superstore are today working on erecting a better and larger board for all the public messages, said assistant manager Ian Danis.
He has only been with the store since March, but has been with the company more than 20 years. Even in that short time, Danis has gotten to know Miguel is a “very friendly man, always with a smile on his face.”
In fact, he is such a “popular community icon” that the company made an exception in keeping his hotdog stand open when all others were closed down.
“He’s a big draw,” Danis said. “He’s so popular… He’s a good character to have around. He’s got a great sense of humour. He’s always got a smile. He’s just a great guy to have around.”
In the days since Miguel has been MIA, Danis said his staff get constant questions about his whereabouts and health.
“There’s a lot of love for the guy. He’s very popular in town,” noting that the get well message board was erected just a few days after he went off sick.
Among the many notes telling Miguel he is missed, wishing him a speedy recovery, hoping he’s feeling better, and telling him to get well soon, many more personalized notes have been added.
The Briggs family posted: “We miss your enthusiasm and fantastic music!! Thoughts + wishes.”
Josh wrote: “Love your positive attitude and permanent smile.!!”
“It’s not the same without you,” wrote Dan, Elsa, and Lucas.
“The hot dogs are waiting,” said Kiko.
“We miss your hellos while shoping,” The Pranks wrote.
The Hsiang family added: “Dear Happy Mister, Thanks for always being the sunshine in our lives. You’re truly an important member of our family.”
“We pray for you,” Mark and Nancy wrote.
Chris Shaxon, who has worked at Superstore for two years, was among those who put up a note. He’s also tries to visit with people inquiring about his friend.
“Miguel knows we care. He’d probably be bawling his eyes out if he could see the kind of support that everyone is showing,” Shaxon said.
Even an eight-year-old from the neighbourhood, Jayce Wright, scribbled a quick note for Miguel, saying he missed him.
“He’s just so nice,” Jayce said, “I hope he’s back soon.”
Jayce’s mother, Liz, added: “He’s been here forever. The community just adores him. He’s just an amazing guy.”
A man with a following
There was a public outcry back in 2009, when it looked like Miguel was going to have to move or close his stand, based on a corporate decision back East.
But a collective choir of some 5,000 customers and fans apparently rallied behind Miguel, and not only did Superstore reverse its decision and allowed him to stay, but provided Miguel with a lockable covered shelter for his food stand.
Back then, Jimmy James of Richmond wrote on a Topix internet forum: “Thanks to people rallying together and voicing their opinions, Miguel at the Langley superstore was able to stay! Good going everyone! Our community would be losing a real treasure if we lost Miguel. Anyone that’s been there knows what I mean.”
Dave from Calgary wrote: “OH…SO….MIGUEL is staying…..WOW…Vow…..GOD Bless…good HOTDog eat’n…..Onward…..eh…..thank yous’, too, to the Langley Superstore….eh…”
Around the same time, the Bliss family of Surrey wrote: “Miguel is a very good reason why we shop at Superstore. If Miguel goes, so do we.”
Patti Dell of Surrey also wrote in: “I’ve only been in the Langley area for 1.5 years, but as soon as I saw Miguel’s face I knew who he was right away! For a man to have his work ethics in this lazy world we are living in is outstanding and should be rewarded… He is an outstanding man, smiling every day and bringing our ever growing community a bit closer as it should be.”
Darian K. of Gastown spoke up about Miguel on Yelp, saying: “Fun hot dog guy Miguel outside is always good for a conversation.”
A blog called Kitsch ’n’ Stone Soup ran a segment called “Taking a Stand for the Hotdog Man.”
A big part of her diatribe was focused on Miguel. She called him a “monumental individual that sort of became a landmark” in her mind.
“Each time I shopped, he stood there like a beacon in my memory; tanned skin, crazy wild hair, beanie hat, and hobo gloves. Dark framed glasses dwindle his big eyes and his 1,000 watt smile is hard to miss at the back of the monstrous parking lot that you think – that man’s face is all teeth.
“His smile makes your day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll buy a hotdog, but you feel like you’re at home when you step inside that store.”
She said Miguel became a friend that she had never met, until one day the writer and her roomie chose to pay it forward and delivered a card and a huge Starbucks coffee to the “hotdog man.”
“We heard about his life in South America. We had to put our sunglasses on when he saw the coffee. He radiated with astonishment. As much as he is all teeth, he is also all voice. He yelled his thanks across the expansive parking lot as it echoed through the valley.”
Later, when she heard through Facebook that there was a group fighting to Save Miguel the Hotdog Man, she joined in the letter-writing campaign.
“I joined the group in a furious rage and send Galen Westen, the president to the monumental President Choice brand a rant the length of my forearm explaining that they could not get rid of Miguel because it wasn’t going to solve the solution to the problem of finding food tenants for the inside spaces at the Langley location. As one of the 5,000 individuals from Langley that spoke up, I can safely say that I stood up and spoke. And as a result, Miguel has kept his job.”
The blogger was glad she took a stance.
“Perhaps it was all a wild and crazy rumour but I was willing to take a stand to keep what keeps the Langley community unique. Who knows if his job was ever in jeopardy,” she penned.
“But the point is that Miguel and I are actually now on a first name basis, I feel like I somehow made a difference in his life…”
On the Gypsy Bite Facebook page, there’s limited action. About a year ago, Joseph Zichterman Jr. posted five star, saying “Miguel is fantastic. Always remembers names, has a great story, and knows how to give people exactly what they want (whether it’s silence or conversation).”
It’s obvious, just by the outpouring of support, that Miguel has touched many people’s lives over the years.
Anyone wishing to send him a comment is invited to do so here. They will be printed out and added to his board.