Queen Toviea rolls out her hot dog cart from the commissary where she stores it over to the corner of 5th and Trade Streets almost every morning around 10. She sets up shop, hangs her decorations, raises up her yellow umbrella, and is ready for business.
A familiar face appears down Trade Street and the man yells, “Hey, Queen Toviea!”
“Hey sweetie, what can I get you?” she replies.
These words sound familiar to the customers of “Queen Toviea and Sons.” The Queen herself has been working on the streets of downtown Winston-Salem selling hot dogs for twenty-six years. “I have laughed, cried, and danced in the sun, heat, and cold on this corner,” says Queen Toviea. “I have seen it all.”
The “Queen Toviea and Sons” menu consists of “famous franks and smokies” and enough toppings for many possibilities. You can get a dog “all the way” with everything on it ranging from New York red onions to sauerkraut and chili, or you can get one with just the basics.
Queen Toviea spots a man wearing an Atlanta Braves hat coming down the street and begins preparing a dog with all the fixins. “Hey, sweetie I’ve got the usual for you,” she says as she hands over the hot dog to one of her “forever customers.” She knows exactly what her regulars want the moment she sees them.
Originally from Plainfield, N.J., Queen Toviea moved to Winston-Salem, following her father who got a job with Integon National Insurance Company.
Over the years she has been downtown, Queen Toviea has witnessed periods of stagnation and growth. Development has brought renovations to older buildings and the addition of newer buildings, including the Wells Fargo Center, originally known as the Wachovia Center, the Winston Salem Transportation Center, Plant 64, the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, and many more.
Queen Toviea says the craft beer scene downtown is “poppin” as well as the restaurants moving into downtown. A lot of food trucks have ventured downtown as well and the competition among these institutions has revved up. Queen Toviea said that as long as food trucks and other vendors “get their own spot,” she will have no issues with them. In fact, she enjoys the entrepreneurial spirit that the food trucks and new restaurants are bringing to downtown. “I don’t mind as long as they do their thing and I can do mine,” Queen Toviea explained.
It’s almost 6 p.m. and Queen Toviea is serving up the last hot dog for the day. She tops it with mustard, grabs a bag of chips, and hands it over to her final customer. “Peace and love,” she says. Queen Toviea cleans up, closes up her umbrella, and rolls her cart back to the commissary and goes home to rest before another day of selling hot dogs on the corner of 5th and Trade.