The sultry smell of sausage on freshly baked bread adds a little ambiance to some Home Depots in Jacksonville.
Brother’s Sausage, a jointly owned sausage and Philly cheesesteak vending stand, have set up shop at four different Home Depot locations around Jacksonville — Girvin and Atlantic, Regency, Fleming Island, and Wells Road in Orange Park.
The food stands serve the type of fare one would expect to find on the streets of New York City – which is fair to say, considering the bulk of their sausage is imported from Port King Sausage co-op in the Bronx.
Hailing from vending-friendly Miami, and friends since picking one’s nose was acceptable, Brian Fernandez, 22, and Daniel Ballesteros, 23, have found their niche in the vending business.
Fernandez came to Jacksonville and saw a vending market that was not fully realized. He saw the potential in bringing sausage vending to the First Coast.
Fernandez was working as a carpenter because, he said, college just wasn’t for him, and Ballesteros was working as a meatcutter for Publix.
But they both had a vision, and that vision was sausage.
“We’re pushing sausage like it’s never been pushed before,” Fernandez said.
And he’s not lying.
Two of the four stands are from the 1970s, the kind one would see up North.
The stands are equipped with flat iron grills that seal in the flavor of sausage and Philly cheesesteaks, as well as hot water heaters and steamers, although none of the sausage or hot dogs served by Brother’s are ever steamed or boiled.
If you’re thinking Brother’s Sausage is just another run-of-the-mill hot dog stand, that won’t sit right with the bros.
“It’s not just a hot dog stand,” Fernandez said. “I don’t really sell many hot dogs, I sell Italian sausage and [Philly] cheesesteaks – like from up North.”
Brother’s Sausage is trying to change the misconception of the food stand as a “roach coach.” One way of doing this is improving the ingredients’ quality.
You won’t find stale, crumbly bread at Brother’s Sausage. The brothers use bread supplied by Jacksonville Beach’s own Cinotti’s Bakery.
Cinnotti’s Bakery, Fernandez said, only sells their Hoagie Rolls in bulk to Brother’s Sausage and Sun Deli.
“He could take in more customers,” Fernandez said, “but he doesn’t want his product to lose quality.”
The bread has helped increase sales because of its good quality, he added.
The competitive factor
Competition in business makes for better service and higher caliber products.
“I want the competition,” he said. “I think it makes everyone’s food a hell of a lot better.”
Some businesses worry vending could take potential customers from restaurants.
“On the beach, [there is] enough money to go around,” Ballesteros said.
Brother’s Sausage has caught on so quickly in part because its tasty food for price ratio, Fernandez said, and for its customer service.
Jim Theis, a customer and shopper at Home Depot, thinks the location is great.
“Awsome spot right outside a hardware store,” Theis said.
Jordan Litt, a UNF psychology senior and Brother’s Sausage employee, said: “Regulars are a huge aspect of our business. People park at Home Depot, walk to the stand, order and leave.”
Jim Harris is a regular at the Girvin Home Depot stand.
“I go out of my way to get these things,” said the sausage-craving Harris. “Good Italian sausage, banana peppers, mustard and onions. Got to to have.”
Friendship is a key ingredient in the brother’s recipe. Employees you see dishing up food at the sausage stands are all friends of the owners.
Working for friends is good because it keeps accountability high and everyone benefits, Litt said.
It helps to have friends within your business, Fernandez said, because much of the stress is removed.
“It’s crazy how a bunch of people collectively come together and create something so successful,” Litt said.