Formerly homeless Will Gault is back and better than ever, ready to serve you the best hot dog of your life.

A local hot dog cart is back for its second year of operation and excited for another season.

Gault, owner and operator of Willy Dogs, is back in front of St. Boniface Hospital on Tache Avenue in Winnipeg and open for business once again as of today.

But his journey to becoming a hot dog businessman wasn't an easy one. Gault's story, as he will tell you, goes back to 2011 when he found himself on the streets of Winnipeg.

"I lost everything," Gault shared. "I was battling a serious drug and alcohol addiction and I had nowhere to go."

Finding himself at Siloam Mission's door, Gault's journey began the day Siloam first welcomed him into their family. But his life didn't simply get better from there.

"I continued to struggle a few years after that," Gault recounted, explaining that his next stop was in Brandon at Addictions Foundation Manitoba (AFM) to start his journey to sobriety.

As of this June, Gault will be 4 years sober. Now one year into managing his up-and-coming business, Gault says customers can expect a few upgrades to his signature yellow-and-blue hot dog cart.

One of these upgrades Gault says he discovered a mere week into his operations last year: relocating his cart across the street.

"The first thing that I did wrong was I went across the street where there was no traffic because I didn't think my cart would fit here on the city sidewalk," laughed Gault.

Despite the uncertainty that comes with any new undertaking, Gault could not be more thrilled with how Willy Dogs has flourished over the past year. A number of events, consistent clientele, and winter accommodations have all contributed to an outcome Gault could never have foreseen coming from his small business endeavour.

"We're very fortunate, I'm super grateful that everything has worked out."

His clientele is now some of the best in the city, Gault says.

"We have a lot of doctors and nurses and staff and patients, and I think being... [a] hospital that delivers a lot of babies, I see a lot of those customers running out and grabbing a quick smokie before they're about to have their baby," chuckled Gault.

willy dogs menu
Though it has been a year of success, the hot dog entrepreneur says the year has also been one of significant reflection and giving back.

"We got married in August and we made a donation to Siloam Mission for every guest that attended," Gault said. "That felt really good, to give back to a place that helped me when I needed them the most."

To describe the path he's on now, "rewarding" is one that comes to mind for Gault. From his marriage to celebrating his daughter's first "hearing birthday" as a result of new cochlear implants, the businessman is thankful for the second chance for life he was given.

"Sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving and definitely in my life... knowing that there's hope out there and if someone like me and other people can get through it, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

"It takes a lot of hard work. It takes rebuilding from ground zero and it takes a lot of dedication to get clean and sober," said Gault. "I never lost hope, but I also believed in something higher than myself to get me out of this... People have their higher power and for me, I call it God. [He] is something I always believed in and now I walk with him in this new journey and it's super rewarding."

Visitors to Willy Dogs can enjoy a selection of smokies and hot dogs, including jalepeño cheddar and hot chorizo, a brand new selection of hot sauces, and a friendly smile accompanied by great conversation with Gault himself as he cooks their meal.

To anyone experiencing hard times who may not currently be able to see that light, Gault offers encouragement to remain hopeful and seek out help.

"I think the biggest message, even in my very very dark days when I thought there was no chance of even staying alive, just never to lose hope. Life will get better.