Sunday, March 29, 2009

Franksville, The Glory Days of a Hot Dog Emporium






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.

40 comments:

Dave said...

Didi- Great stuff. I'm surprised that I never ran across Franksville! Looking at the list of addresses, it seems that they were near but never actually in the places I lived or hung out. The NY World's Fair connection is intriguing. I can't imagine that a small Chicago-based operation would have been able to pay the huge cost of exhibiting at the World's Fair! Must have been in other cities as well or at least in the NY area.

It's interesting how hot dogs don't seem to have fit nearly as well with the "national chain" concept as hamburgers or fried chicken have. For sure, there are strong regionals such as Portillo's or (not nearly as high end) Wienerschnitzel out west.

And I'm with you on Chi-Chi's - my wife and I used to love 'em!

Didi said...

Oh, gosh, I still cry about Chi-Chi's. My parents took me there all the time when I was a girl growing up in Cleveland but when we moved here, I knew Illinois had locations but we never went. A large part may have been the fact that my father actually worked there for a short time for a cleaning crew that cleaned up the restaurants at night. He said it was always disgusting. Could be why we never sought it out here. When I got older I told a friend about it who had always wanted to go. So we sought out the last location in Illinois in Orland Park and went there regularly the last year just before the chain went under. We always had fun!

I don't know why hot dogs has never been able to sustain a large national presence. It's a Chicago thing that perhaps just cannot be replicated elsewhere? I don't get it. Obviously, Franksville had some large ambitions but somewhere something did not quite measure up. I'd sure like to know what the heck happened. They managed to open up a wide range of locations within a few years and then nothing. It all went down to just one.

The thing about the NY World's Fair. I just do not know where or how this all connects. It most certainly has to be the same chain as same name and building are used. Maybe they had the cash to be featured. I read a Trib article saying that by 1965 the company was making a LOT of money so maybe it isn't that far fetched to suspect that they afford to pay the exhibition rates.

In any event, there are people out there who do remember the chain and that is touching after all these years. Like you, Dave. This one fell under my radar as I never dwelled on that lone location on Harlem or even thought about eating there. I have always loved hot dogs (hated burgers, okay with chicken) and my dad used to take me to Hub's on Lincoln all the time and another great little hot dog shack (now gone) close to Western and Irving Park that are now condos.

Kimberly Troiani said...

I lived near that Franksville on Harlem in the eighties... although I don't remember ever going there, just reading your blog and seeing that familiar sign brought back awesome memories :)

Didi said...

That usually happens to me when a see an Arby's sign or Hubs on Lincoln right off of Bryn mawr. These were places my dad used to take me to. Great memories! I can totally relate.

Linda Panszczyk said...

This really brings back memories. I think I'm the person who mentioned taking the Diversey bus westward in the late 1960s/early 1970s to go to the pediatrician and stopping at the Franksville afterwards on Diversey and Cicero.

The other Franksville I recall was right across Clark St from Wrigley Field, where the McDonalds now stands. When my dad would take me to a game in the 1960s, we'd always stop at Franksville first.

I loved their footlong hot dogs.

Linda Panszczyk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Didi said...

Hi, Linda! Glad to see you make a reappearance. It is so good to hear about the fond memories you have of Franksville. Your dad sounds a lot like mine and if I had been a child back in the late 1960s Franksville sounds like a place he would have loved to take me to. Thank you so much for the comments!

The Dual Role Grandma said...

I just found your blog. WOW!

I worked for the Franksville on Clark & Addison in the 1970s whil ein high school, as did one of my sisters and my late brother-in-law. The franchise was owned by Ben Citron and Maury Kogen.

Once a year a limo would pull up, and this little old guy would get out of the back, come in, ask to speak with Ben. It was Ray Kroc. He wanted the property. Ben wouldn't sell it to him for years. To add insult to injury, Ben made him buy whatever Kroc wanted to eat- no freebies.

Didi said...

Now that's quite a story! I guess eventually Kroc got his way as it is now a McDonald's. Any idea when the owners finally sold it? Thank you so much for your informative comments!

The Dual Role Grandma said...

I want to say about 1977 or 1978. By that time, I was in the military & married.

It was supposed to be a corporate McDonald's, that much I do know. However, the same group that franchised the original Watertower McDonald's franchised the Wrigley location.

Didi said...

Well, at least now I know for a fact that some Franksville locations lasted until the late 1970s. Thank you so much for that bit of info, Dual Role Grandma.

I guess Kroc got his way in everything. Instead of enjoying foot long hot dogs every five blocks it's Big Macs. I'm sure being right across the street from Wrigley was a hot commodity.

SirPher said...

I remember the Franksville across from Wrigley Field in the 70's and stopped there before a few games. The one on Addison/Harlem has been there forever and went there a couple of times. But the one that I went to a lot was the little Franksville at Harlem/Foster. It was a hallway place with a counter a maybe 6 tables in the whole place. It was there from about 1980-1987, when it was bought out by Toot's.

Didi said...

Oh, Toots! I remember going there once in high school, I think. I don't recall it being memorable at all but it was better than Susie's on Montrose. Nice to know that Franksville, where ever it was did try to hang on at least until the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Glenview during the 60s and 70s and spent plenty of money at the Franksville that used to be near the corner of Waukegan and Golf. I wish I had picture of the place. I wish I had a picture of the strip mall that used to be there too. If anybody has any old pics of those locations I would really appreciate it if you could scan them and email them to me at ( mail4tw at gmail dot com ). If you don't have a scanner I would be willing to buy you lunch if you let me scan them on my scanner. Thanks.

Didi said...

I'd like to say that if you do ever find any pictures, Anonymous, please share because I would love to feature pictures of Franksville and any strip malls in the area.

Bill M. said...

Didi - great site. Let me shed some light on few things. 1st, the Franksville near Wrigley was on the eats side of Clark across the street from the current McDonald's. As for George, Sam and Harry...they didn't start in 1963. They bought the Harlem & Addison location in the early 70's and in 1976 opened the aforementioned Harlem & Foster location (in the Arcade). I spent 9 very happy years working for the guys so if you frequented Franksville between 1976 and 1984 you'd probably remember me (Bill). The guys also opened a Franksville in Evanston in the 80's but it didn't last too long.
I can go for a foot long and cheese fries right now!

Bill M. said...

Quick follow-up. That ad above ("This Ad is Worth 10) is the coolest thing!! Well into the 1980's we used a number system when people ordered and now I know it's origin! Number 5 (Frank n' olives) was supplanted by the small hamburger and number 6 became the Taco. All the other numbers were the same. We used to yell out on busy days "two number 10's no mustard, a number 2 xtra cheese w/ peppers and two fries". Thanks for the site and the memories. Bill M

Didi said...

Thank you so much, Bill, for clearing up a bit of the history for me, I could only work with what I found and I just assumed that the brothers had started the entire business from the info I came across. It's good to know that they actually bought the Harlem location which probably explains why it's still there to this day. It sounds like you have some wonderful memories. It is good to hear about the different orders and numbers. That's something no one ever forgets. Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

There was a Franksville on St. Charles Rd. in Elmhurst-past Rt.83heading west. The rumor we heard about the demise of this great chain was that they gave away so many free pickles(they had the best pickles I ever tasted)that it affected profits. Great hot dogs & it was an inexpensive place to take a date as a teen. I can still taste those pickles. Mike-Class of 1967 York Dukes

Didi said...

Thank you so much, Mike. Hmm, wondering if the pickle thing could be possible. I guess we'll just never know for sure.

jrglenn said...

Wow! just came across this site while looking up info on the first place I worked as a teenager(16 yrs old)...that's right Franksville... in Hialeah, Florida around 49th st and Palm Ave. I believe there were 3 or 4 locations in the Miami area. Back in '66-67 the min wage was close to $1.10/hr. I remember when I got a raise to...$1.15/hr!!!
Those Saturday specials(5 for a dollar)used to really bring in the business. #5-reg hamburger,#7- large burger. I think #9 was a corndog. Long time ago...thanks for the pics.

jrglenn said...

One more thing...we made our fries at the store. They were fresh NOT frozen. I remember putting whole potato's in the peeler machine, washing them in the big stainless wash basin, then ,one at a time, pressing them through the potato slicer by pulling down the handle. Washing one more time, into the fry basket to drip dry for about 5 min, then into the deep fryer. OH SOO GOOOD!!!

The Dual Role Grandma said...

jrglenn, you got your numbers absolutely correct! In my day (1973-74) at the Wrigley Franksville, #1 was a regular hot dog, #8 was a jumbo dog, and #10 was a foot-long.

We had a potato cutter as well, but Ben Citron explained it was cheaper for him to buy the bags of fries.

Didi said...

Jrglenn, I am glad this post was able to bring back memories of your first job. Though I never worked in fast food I could totally relate to remembering my first job. Thanks for telling us about teh Miami area locations which surprised me quite a bit. Glad a Chicago institution can provide some good memories for you.

Like The Dual Role Grandma, I am amazed that you can recall the numbers over forty years later. That's quite a feat as is the fact that they used fresh cut potatoes for the fries.

Tom said...

These ads are so cool!

Franksville is still there!!

Didi said...

Just the one location on Harlem.

Anonymous said...

I sure wish someone could post some pictures of the Franksville that used to be on Golf road in Morton Grove. I've got a lot of memories there but no pics :(

Didi said...

Anonymous, is the building still standing on that one? I can't recall if the one on Golf was one of the buildings still standing.

Vintage pics of Franksville for me are hard to come by. Being a kind soul out there has SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

Didi,
Unfortunately, that Franksville was torn down over 20 years ago when the Kraft Headquarters expanded it's borders. I bet the owner of Franksville has pictures! I'm not sure, but I think his name is George Radaios.

Didi said...

Actully, Anonymous the RAidios brothers are not the originators of the chain. They only bought the sole location left on Harlemin the early 70s.

Anonymous said...

Didi, when I get some time this summer I'm going to dig thru historical property tax records and other public documents hoping to find a picture of that particular Franksville. Until then, the only pic I have can be seen at the link below. The arrow in the pic points to Franksville. The intersection in the lower-right corner is Golf Rd and Waukegan Rd. The strip mall next to Franksville was called Golf View Plaza and is also long gone.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v615/natural_selection/Franksville1974.jpg

Didi said...

I would probably do the same thing if I had a little more time. I am still curious to know who actually started the chain. Thanks for the link, Anonymous.

Tom said...

I thought you might find this interesting. It's a link to the original 1965 patent for Franksville's unique building design. Merrill Spivak was president of Franksville Inc. at the time.

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=I0tzAAAAEBAJ

Didi said...

Awesome, Tom! Thank you for the link.

Bill said...

I remember the 5 for a $1.00 weekends. I worked at the store at 87th & Cicero from 1966 - 1968. It was owned by two guys, both named Wally. Hot dogs were numbered 1 to 10. Regular price for the #1 was $.25, most of the others (cheese, chili, kraut, olive, tomato) were $.30 except the foot long was $ .40. In my opinion best item on the menu was the hamburger, shaped to fit on a hot dog bun. We didn't sell a lot, but loaded with mustard, onion, chili and cheese, it was my standard meal on my break. The building is still there but under a different name. Selling a variety of fast food items.

Bill

Didi said...

Excellant memory, Bill. In all these comments I hadn't realized that Franksville also sold burgers.

Jeff said...

Hi. In case anybody didn't know, there still stands a Franksville original building at the corner of Larkin Ave and Jefferson St. in Joliet, IL. My aunt used to take me there in the early 70s for a "hot dog on a stick." She said she used to get that burger in the hot dog bun and really liked it. It had become a Johnny K's and then a Subway which it still is now.

Didi said...

Thanks for letting us know that the original building still stands, Jeff. Hmm, wondering myself what a burger tastes like in a hot dog bun.

Anonymous said...

There used to be a Franksville in Joliet il. until the late 70's or early 80's it was on jefferson st. just east of larkin av on the south side of the street. The building is still there,but is now painted bright yellow and houses a subway sandwich shop.

Didi said...

Subway seems to be just about everywhere, doesn't it? Thanks for the update, Anonymous.