Felony Franks Offers Ex-Offenders Jobs and Chance to Turnaround | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Felony Franks Offers Ex-Offenders Jobs and Chance to Turnaround

And now, for our story of the month. This little corner of 848 has brought you stories about gracious athletes and remorseful thieves. Today we bring you the story of a hot dog stand's fight for individuality.

Hot dog joints aren't a rare sight in Chicago. But a new one on the corner of Jackson and Western is unique - because it's run by ex offenders. Felony Franks is the brainchild of Jim Andrews. Nearly a decade ago, Andrews gave someone fresh out of jail a second chance.

He's my manager today. He's been with me 8 1/2 years. He convinced me to hire others, which I have done. I have 5 employees, and I haven't hired anyone in the last 3 years. That tells you the caliber of guys that work for me. (:19)

6 years ago, Andrews started The Rescue Foundation. He's theory is - if you give someone a job, they can get housing. And if they have a place to call home, they can turn their lives around. But how does that bring us to Felony Franks? We owe that to Jim's wife, Mary.

I was coming down Harlem ave. at Addison and there's Franksville. And I was thinking ‘felony', and I said, hey Mary, what do you think about Felony Franks? And we could open up some hot dog stands? She thought for a minute and sez I think I like it. Let's put a registered trademark on it and go forward with it. (:22)

So Felony Franks was born…with a mission.

To benefit the guys and girls that are working there. They will become 50% partners in the profits. Some people say that we're exploiting the people that are working there, we are not. It gives them a feeling of ownership, a feeling of pride in what they're doing, and will want them to work and strive for better things for that business (:32)

Although 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti loves the concept - just not in his backyard. He says Felony Franks doesn't cut the mustard. In fact Fioretti has been quoted as saying he doesn't find the name humorous.

Andrews claims that because the alderman doesn't like the name, he's been denied TIFF money, a permit to hang a sign and the use of a driveway leading into a parking lot next to the store. Andrews says Fioretti just needs to lighten up. And given the number of ex offenders living in the ward not to mention its high unemployment rate, he should look at the big picture.

We're going to generate approximately 15-thousand dollars in salary over there this month, and we're going to generate pretty close to 3-thousand dollars in sales tax. I think that's pretty good. I mean, we're spending now 15-thousand dollars in salaries to people that weren't working, that had idle minds, that could have been out robbing your house, sticking up your business, shoplifting…what else can I say? (38)

Andrews hopes that this stand is just the beginning.

I did not do this to be a hero. I just did this because you know what? There's a need to help others. If I can open up 30 of them, I can probably hire 300 people. I'm not going to solve the world's problems, but I can take 300 people- men and women-off the street who are branded as felons, and give them jobs. (28)

Jim Andrews relishes the idea of a Felony Franks franchise complete with a colorful menu.

Well we have a Felony Frank, a Misdemeanor Weiner, we have a Cellmate, which is 2 Misdemeanors in one bun, we have a Pardon Burger, a Paroled Polish, Burglar Beef, Chain Gang Chili, and I think the cutest one is the Jail Bird on a bun, which is a chicken sandwich (26)

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Jim Andrews owns a paper company on Chicago's near west side, and has just opened Felony Franks at Jackson and Western.

To find out more about the work Jim and his foundation does with ex offenders, go to Chicago Public Radio dot org, slash 848.

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