This upcoming week is going to be a very busy week for me but I will try and make the best of it in terms of posting stuff.
A few years ago when I still had an ancient film filled camera I decided to take one hell of a long biking trip down Belmont from Kedzie to Harlem, down Harlem to Irving Park and back snapping photos of every old sign I could find including this one at the very top of Franksville located at 3550 N Harlem. I had a ton of old pictures that I eventually organized and put away only to bring out once in a blue moon. I hadn't really even paid much attention to the restaurant or the building its housed in and I kind of even forgot I had a photo.
Flash forward to earlier this week when I took a trip down to the South Side. Driving around with a friend we were searching for a place to eat and riding down 87th street found nothing but fast food restaurants and a Pepe's at 954 W 87th Street. In all honesty, I really don't care for Mexican and I have been to Pepe's once and didn't find the food nearly as appetizing. The only chain Mexican restaurant I ever liked was Chi-Chi's and that was more so because it was a childhood favorite and just before the whole chain shut down here in the States, they had the most awesome lobster enchiladas. What intrigued me about the Pepe's was the odd looking building. I ran a Google search (cuz Google's so good to me!), found the address of the Pepe's than looked inside my trusty old archives to find out what exactly Pepe's used to be. Up popped up a local chain called Franksville where the ads touted the foot long hot dogs. When I did a basic Google search for Franksville I found the one on Harlem still in operation. Once I looked at pictures of the matching buildings I remembered the photo I had of the sign and it all began to click together.
The location on Harlem was the last location left of a once promising hot dog chain that began in 1963 by brothers George, Harry and Sam Radaios. The grand opening was quite a spectacle staying open through all the wee hours of the night and offered "Free balloons and engineer caps for all the kids." There was a even a beauty contest held where girls would fight for the title of Miss Franksville. The mantra at Franksville was "Franks, franks, franks! Have we got franks! No fair counting how many. But they're all juicy, tender, flavorful and wonderfully different: You can order them steamed, grilled or char broiled. Standard, jumbo or a foot long. But don't stop there. Have 'em with cheese, chili barbecue sauce, sauerkraut, olives, tomatoes or...you name it...Franksville's got it. So c'mon down to Franksville. Load up the family car and enjoy your first trip to hotdogland (Franksville, that is). All aboard. Open the throttle. Put on the steam. Next stop....FRANKSVILLE-first of a new national chain of hot dog emporiums."
By 1965, Franksville had ten locations and was looking to branch out even more. A Chicago Tribune article dated July 2, 1965 stated that the chain was hoping to have at least thirty six more restaurants in states that included Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. I don't know if they ever reached these states but I do know that something must have begun to flounder less then a couple of years later. After 1967, there isn't much info or advertisements with the chain. There is some mention of people who fondly remember the chain including in the comments section of my own site regarding the Olson Rug Factory Rock Garden. A reader named Linda mentioned that she used to ride the Diversey bus and visit the Franksville on Central. On the Malls of America blog a reader named Kerry mentions the one that was located close to Ford City in the 60s. If you visit Road Food, a few people from the area also mention Franksville and the wonderful hot dogs and the location that was once across the street from Wrigley Field's. Guess what restaurant it is today? Why McDonald's of course! Hot dogs gave away to the McVictimization of burgers and chicken nuggest tracked every three blocks.
The most mysterious allude to the chain on the Internet comes from a forum dedicated to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair in which some vintage photos of the Lake Amusement area turn up a rare look at Franksville, same building prototype and same sign. If you scroll down to get a look at the genius pictures you will see the resemblance right away as the World's Fair Community try to figure out what it was and why it was there. It seems that Franksville did make it all the way to New York for perhaps some NY style World's Fair fun.
As to what happened and why this once successful chain could dwindle down to one location is as much a mystery as their 1964 appearance at the New York World's Fair. Some of the distinct looking buildings are still standing though looking at Google's Street View only gave me locations at Villa Park, Oak Lawn and Downer's Grove as still standing. The Villa Park and Oak Lawn buildings house other restaurants while the Downer's Grove one is a used car lot. The mystery on what happened to this giant hot dog emporium may be hinted in the December 22, 2008 obituary for Jose Luis Calleros, owner and operator of the Pepe's at 87th and Morgan streets. "In the mid-1960s, [Mr. Calleros] opened a taco stand in an A-frame hot dog shack called Franksville at 87th and Morgan Streets in the Gresham neighborhood. He was one of the first franchisees in the Pepe's chain, which now has more than 50 restaurants." Though it doesn't quite explain how those foot long dogs suddenly became tacos.
Hey, if you remember Franksville or have eaten there recently always know that your comments and memories are always welcome and if you can solve this mystery that would be great too. The photo at the top is of the location on Harlem. The first two ads below are from 1965. The next two ads are from 1966. The last ad featuring the foot long giant is from 1967. Click on each to enlarge.
UPDATE: The Radiaos brothers ARE NOT the original owners who started Franksville. Reader Bill M recently commented that the brothers actually purchased the Harlem and Foster location in the early 1970s.