MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — “He will never be forgotten”, “He brought happiness to everyone”, “He is Martinsburg, West Virginia”; all comments on a Facebook post announcing the December 30 passing of Dimitrios Boulafentis.
Known by locals as “Jimmy the Hot Dog Man”, Boulafentis moved from his birthplace Kalymnos, Greece at the age of 16 seeking more opportunities. His fifth grade education was compensated by a desire for learning, an exceptional work ethic and the passion for making people happy.
George Boulafentis, son of Jimmy, shared his father’s story on MetroNews affiliate WEPM’s “Panhandle Live” recently.
“At 16 he got on an oil tanker and started sailing across the world delivering and picking up oil. (At) 18 he ‘jumped ship’ and took a Greyhound bus to Manhattan and moved in with his brother, my Uncle Nick, and started street vending and selling hot dogs ever since.”
Jimmy moved to Martinsburg in 1988 and continued to run his hot dog stand at various locations throughout town. Locations included the former Blue Ridge Outlets, the Berkeley County Courthouse and outside of the DMV. His most recent spot was in front of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Apple Harvest Drive.
“He really loved people. People really mattered to him and it was cool to see how much he mattered to people. The stories that they’ve shared have been amazing. If he knew your grandmother was sick, he asked about her. If he knew your kid went to college, he’d ask about them. Somebody had a baby or something like that he rarely forgot a name.”
Regular patrons of Jimmy’s hot dog stand didn’t have to place an order.
“He usually knew your face. For a lot of folks, and you’ll see that a lot in the (Facebook) comments, was ‘I didn’t even need to tell him what I needed. As soon as he saw my face he started making it and by the time I was there it was ready’. If you wanted to tell your life story and sob to him, he would listen. If you wanted to share a big success, he would listen. He was definitely built for that. He really cherished the 10, 20, 50, 100 conversations he’d have a day.”
In honor of Jimmy, George has decided to create a scholarship in his memory.
“I just decided because he didn’t have the opportunity for himself to have an education beyond fifth grade, pretty much everyone he knew started working at 12, to do a scholarship. So I’ve set that up in his name.”
You can donate to the scholarship fund at any City National Bank in the eastern panhandle or by emailing email@example.com.
Boulafentis is considering other ways to remember his father and raise money for the scholarship, including possibly a community event.
Jimmy died at the age of 67.