ok, now I know how Dagny felt

Posted by iroseland 9 years, 7 months ago to Business
13 comments | Share | Flag

Back when I started at Midway games once a week we would drive to the other side of Roscoe Village to get hot dogs.. At first I thought it was odd. But then I noticed that these were more than just hot dogs. It was delicious artwork in a bun. Then, the apartment upstairs caught fire and the restaurant closed, and we spent 9 months going through encased meat withdrawal. Nothing else around was even close to being as good. Then one morning I was walking past the remains of what had been a horrible family restaurant across the street from work. The windows were all papered over, and I could smell fresh paint. The door was cracked and I heard a familiar voice. So, I stuck my head in to say hello to Doug. He had managed to secure a loan on the merits of his product and would be opening again soon. On opening day the folks from my department were standing outside at the door waiting. It had been too long since we had perfect corn dogs or amazing polish sausages. From then on I ate there 2 or 3 times a week, or more.. Now, pretty much out of the blue he will be shutting the doors for good.. This is kind of amazing, since Hot Dougs is kind of a gold mine, he is a genius at it, and he loves what he is doing. I was waiting to pick up lunch one day when someone called to essentially offer to buy the place out and wanted a price. He calmly said ten million into the phone. A few moments later he hung up and said that it would take a lot of money for him to give this up.. Now, I find myself planning an emergency flight back to Chicago so I can have one last lunch there. While he might not be mining coal, I totally understand how Dagny felt..
In the meantime, if any of you live within driving distance of Chicago, you would be doing yourself a favor to get there and experience perfection before it is gone. Just take 94 to the Addison exit. Exit East on Addison and turn Right on California... Find parking as Roscoe is the next set of lights... Usually there is parking on Roscoe..
SOURCE URL: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/stew/chi-hot-dougs-closing-20140506,0,7406836.story

Add Comment


All Comments Hide marked as read Mark all as read

  • Posted by Notperfect 9 years, 6 months ago
    Reminds me of all the small businesses I frequented because the food was good or the feeling of being home was always in the air. I'm not saying a large business is bad not at all, but without those small businesses would we be in the gulch?
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by shivas 9 years, 7 months ago
    Sad to see another independent restaurant bite the dust. Obviously this isn't a restaurant impossible story. In Chicago next week for NRA. I may try to make the pilgrimage.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by Herb7734 9 years, 7 months ago
    The secret to a good hot dog is to only use the ones with casings. Skinless dogs are for poor creatures who don't know any better. Chicago is home to Hebrew National and Wilno kosher dogs. They are both excellent and with a steamed poppy seed bun, mustard and the neon relish and chopped onions -- a taste of heaven. Any place claiming to serve good hot dogs and they are skinless is a place to be avoided. They may be lying about other things as well.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by $ SmallBizSurvivor 9 years, 7 months ago
    Unfortunately, we were sold a bill of goods. Mantras like... Do what you love and the money will come or... Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door are relics of a bygone era.

    Big companies like Apple, Google, GE get massive subsidies and tax breaks, but the little guy gets hit with poor labor, high prices, workman's comp scams and increased insurance prices. At the end of the day, it is almost impossible to run a small business on any kind of living margin.

    I own several businesses based on the premise of trying to invent better and higher quality mousetraps. But at the end of the day, people have no disposable incomes.

    In the "old days" I would splurge occasionally and go to Chilis or Ruby Tuesday's for lunch. Now, I'm splurging when I migrate from the 1.00 value menu at McD's and order something other than the dollar items. If I spend more than 2.50 for lunch...I have a hard time justifying it.

    We're all living the value menu life...(unless you work on wallstreet) .and I'm hating ever second of it.

    I wish Doug good luck and hope he finds a new place to sell his dogs.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by Maritimus 9 years, 7 months ago
      Hey, Survivor,
      I am sad to hear your disappoinment.
      I think the "mantra" you heard is oversimplified.
      The key thing that one needs to know before even planning to start a small business is: who the customers and prospects are, what are their needs, are they looking for the best available or the cheapest available etc. etc.
      Then you can start planning what combination of products or services are you going to offer, at what prices, how many people you need to do it, how are you going to pay for the start up and where are you going to obtain credit, if you need it. It ain't easy and only 25% survuve first year and 5% the first five years I am told.
      I started a small business almost 28 years ago and ran it for 20 years, grew from 9 employees to 40, quintupled the revenue, and sold it after those 20 years. Never once missed the semimonthly payroll, although in the beginning I delayed paying myself (highest salary, most saving of cash on that day) a few times. Cash flow is the king. You can be profitable and collapse on cash flow.
      I live very comfortably on what I was able to set asside from this experience.
      Yes, it is risky to start a small business. But, except for our two sons, it gave the deepest satisfaction and thrill of my life.
      If you are courageous and honest with yourself, you should be able to see where you went astray, learn from it and do it much better next time.
      Good luck, Survivor!
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by 9 years, 7 months ago
      Their are a few interesting things about Dougs operation. As for a the restaurant industry goes he was practically a Hank Rearden. First lets look at the turn over in employees from year to year. In the restaurant world high turnover is the rule. So, the interesting thing about Dougs is that he had the same staff for _years_ The same folks up front, the same folks in back and the same Doug at the counter. There were a few reasons that he could do this. he apparently paid pretty well, the work environment was all about being amazing and doing an awesome job, he provided above average benefits, ohh and there was the part where they were only open from 10:30am to 4:00pm Monday through Saturday. Never open on holidays, the restaurant took vacations like the week of Christmas, Thanksgiving weekend, Memorial day weekend the 4th and Labor day weekend. So, they are working in food service but get to also have pretty regular lives outside of work. No one in the restaurant industry gets that.. So, while his labor costs might be comparatively high he is also getting some of the best and most loyal employees that money can buy. Now, for the last couple of years there has been the downturn. You would not think so ti see the line at Dougs on an average day. They serve in the neighborhood of 500 people a day. That means that from 10:30 to 4:00 they are crazy busy. But, the average order is about 12.00 cash ( no cards used at dougs ) ohh, and things geet even more crazy on the weekend. So, the place is grossing in the neighborhood of 40k a week. Meaning the place is grossing nearly 2 million a year. The employees are the #1 cost, and there are only 5 of them _total_ . Like I had said the place is pretty much a gold mine. So, its amazing to see someone who has been having this much fun, doing this awesomely hang up his apron. But, I was talking about it with my wife last night as we were making or plans for a weekend flight to Chicago so we can, eat a lot of food at Dougs, and go to eat at a few other places that are the kind of good that cannot be found in the pacific northwest. She suggested that he might be doing the right thing, and while he is probably not physically burned out he might be getting creatively burned out. There are few things sadder than seeing what happens to a great place that is now coasting on their previous greatness. So, we will be making the trip in July or August and when I am there in person I am totally going to question him on the why quit now thing.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by barwick11 9 years, 7 months ago
    Yeah dude, do share if you find out why he's leaving it. If there's a valley out West that I don't know about, I want in on the gig :) Ready to move me and the family :)
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  


  • Comment hidden. Undo