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Felony Franks may come to Evanston...or it might not

The owner of a hotdog stand known for hiring ex-felons says he probably won’t end up in Evanston’s 2nd ward.

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Felony Franks may come to Evanston...or it might not

Now-closed hot dog stand Felony Franks is considering moving to Evanston

Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers

Jim Andrews, owner of the hot dog stand Felony Franks, got an ultimatum on Thursday night: Change the name of your restaurant or don’t bother moving here.

That came from the residents of Evanston’s 2nd ward at a community meeting. Andrews is looking to open his hot dog stand, Felony Franks, somewhere in Evanston. He said one possible location was in the Evanston Plaza shopping center, located in the 2nd ward.

But residents are not crazy about the restaurant’s name or crime-themed menu.

Andrews said he’s not changing anything.

“Felony Franks—home of the misdemeanor wiener, food so good it’s criminal—makes a statement,” Andrews said. “It’s a statement. It lets our society know what we’re doing.”

What Andrews is doing is hiring ex-felons who struggle to find employment because of their criminal records. Andrews, who already owns a paper company staffed by ex-convicts, said Felony Franks provides a business training program that allows employees to go on to better jobs elsewhere.

Residents didn’t have a problem with that. They said they admired Andrews’ vision; they just didn’t like his marketing.

Resident Jesse Williamson said the name reinforces a negative perception of the area.

“They wouldn’t take this a mile north or south of here. It wouldn’t even be considered,” Williamson said. “They’re only considering the second ward because the demographics say you can sell a hot dog, and they [residents] will identify with somebody who’s been in jail.”

Kelley Elwood asked Andrews why he couldn’t re-name the business “Angel Dogs.” Elwood said the restaurant’s theme sent a bad message to children.

“I think he’s got a good heart, but I think he’s steeping this in the negative,” Elwood said.

Given the residents reaction, Andrews said he will look around for other locations in Evanston as well as other suburbs.

But Evanston officials say they want a Felony Franks in their city. They say it’s an “intriguing model” that could help Evanston’s ex-offender population.

Andrews added it was the city who contacted him about coming to Evanston.

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