Hot dog stand offensive to some residents

July 13, 2009 (CHICAGO) The owner says he is providing gainful employment to former prisoners who are trying to rebuild their lives. But the ward's alderman and some community members have taken issue with the stand's name, logo and sign.

Chicago businessman Jim Andrews, for years, has been hiring ex-cons in his paper company and says he has found them to be responsible employees. Andrews decided to form a charitable organization called the Rescue Foundation and open a hot dog restaurant on the West Side called Felony Franks which will hire ex -cons.

Congressmen Danny Davis and others showed up for the ribbon cutting and opening of Felony Franks, "The Home of the Misdemeanor Weiner," a hot dog restaurant at the corner of Western and Jackson. Employees of Felony Franks are rehabilitated ex-offenders.

"Individuals can begin working here and maybe they develop a work ethic. Maybe they get an opportunity to move up and move out," said Rep. Danny Davis, (D) Chicago.

Founder Jim Andrews says the purpose of felony franks is to take the negative out of a felony background and turn it into a positive.

"They're good people. We need to take these people, train them, give them a chance to have a better life," said Jim Andrews, Felony Franks founder.

Hundreds showed up to Monday's opening; however, not everyone is excited about the venture. Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti says he does not object to the concept but is offended by the name.

"There's a victim from a felony. A felony means time behind bars and a felony means lost resources. We shouldn't be glorifying felonies here in this day and age," said Fioretti.

"It's rather insulting. I think they could have thought of a better name," said Beverly Green, resident.

Robert Dougherty of St. Leonard's Ministries, a halfway house for ex-felons, says he believes in the concept of Felony Franks but is against the name.

"We would have chosen a different name for his site. The whole allusion to prison and felonies and those things are things most formerly incarcerated people want to put behind them," said Robert Dougherty, St. Leonard's ministries.

Andrews says he will not let the opposition to the name stop him from helping ex-felons to find work.

"It helps me to pay rent, get some clothes, just be a productive part of society," said Aaron Pitts Jr., Felony Franks employee.

"It means another opportunity to provide for myself and my family and just to grow," said Kevin Jones, Felony Franks employee.

"Now I can support my family--and I can't explain it. It's the best thing to happen to me since I've been rehabilitated, so I couldn't ask for more," said Mirian Hernandez, Felony Franks employee.

Andrews says he has already received over 60 applications from individuals wanting to work at the place. He says he will not stop with just one Felony Franks restaurant. He hopes to open another 40 in Chicago.

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