The Felony Franks debate
05/11/2009 11:34 AM
The story about the opening of a hot dog stand called Felony Franks at Jackson and Western and some residents' objections to its name inspired a huge response. Besides pick-up by other media outlets - FOX affiliates were particularly interested - Chicago Journal received more letters to the editor about the issue than any other story we've published over the last year. And the responses keep on coming. Last Friday, Monica Brown, a homeowner who lives near the hot dog stand, sent a 1,218-word bulleted list of reasons why she's against the store's name. Here's a sampling from Brown's list:
- Words and images are extremely powerful. It is important that we do everything within our rights to protect the quality of life for everyone in our community. Allowing anyone to use a name like "felony" and the image of "a hot dog in ball & chains" as well as wearing a prison uniform can never be positive.
- We will continue to advocate for positive images, those images that reflect the morals, values, and traditions that are conducive to self identification, and positive self image based upon our faith and belief systems. We will be defined by ourselves, not by the negative icons that are placed within our community.
- There are 5-6 schools within walking distance of your planned location. The name and logo "Felony Franks" is not a brand, image, name or message that we want you to broadcast to our children. This is not something that we aspire for them, as you do not aspire for your own children.
- We feel that once again, the line has been crossed, and that our community is being insulted. Surely one dares not go to Winnetka, Naperville, Highland Park, Skokie or any suburb that is primarily European American, and use a name and logo such as this offensive one ... Why? Because it would not be tolerated.
Brown's points came after we published in last week's paper several letters critical of the name - though, as the letter writers are quick to point out, not the concept of hiring ex-offenders. Near West Sider Victor Fuller wrote that Felony Franks' owner Jim Andrews' tactics "are no different than gangster rappers using the excuse that they are trying to make the N word a positive word to sell records, or drug dealers putting Spiderman cards in crack baggies to market their products." Andrea Ebert-McNeill, who owns a building close to the store, advised Andrews to open the first Felony Franks store in Oak Park, where he lives. You can read neighborhood resident Gina Mastrokoukos's letter here.
And below are the first round of responses to the story, most of which supported the name. I'm re-posting these on the Web because they were lost when Chicago Journal debuted its new Web site. The letters were originally published in the April 30 edition of Chicago Journal:
I love the concept. I think the idea is wonderfully kitchy. I believe that felons should be given every opportunity to succeed and be able to move beyond their past. What I don't believe is that this neighborhood is the right place for the name to be established. If Mr. Andrews wants to establish the chain, he should have chosen somewhere near a prison for his first store. There are numerous store fronts available near the Metropolitan Correctional Center (South Loop). And once the name has been established, then spread out. And for the gentleman who says that the neighbors should be ''thrilled'', where do you live? Perhaps "Felony Franks" can open their first store across the street from your home. Until then, call it something else.
Near West Side
Ready for a 'misdemeanor weiner'
So Monica Brown does not like the name "Felony Franks" Jim Andrews has chosen for his private business on private property. Few other people seem to care. The people who have lined up for jobs working there don't seem to care.
It sounds to me like Andrews and his proposed business fulfill an important and admirable service.Let's hope Brown fails in her narrow-minded attempt to dictate what she finds acceptable. If she has threatened protests "in front of his store," let's hope she avoids interfering in smooth passage on any public way or trespassing on his property or other illegal acts.
My guess is that if her "protests" are legal, she will primarily succeed in providing free publicity for his restaurant.
I myself shall feel hunger for a hot dog and will try one of the misdemeanor wieners. Let's hope thousands of people do as well.
Stephen C. Carlson
Felony Franks: a great service
Andrews is doing the community, and the neighborhood, a great service. From a pragmatic perspective, Felony Franks will be located a quarter mile from either school; that concern is unfounded and alarmist.
The business, and specifically the sign, send a positive message: even if you are a felon, you can get a job, get ahead and live a life outside the criminal element. In the past, we lived in true communities. When Billy or Barbie down the street committed a crime and was convicted, everyone knew, including the neighborhood children. And that was a lesson learned - don't do bad things, you will get caught, you will go to jail. Nowadays we sugar coat everything, we draw a veil of obscurity over the bad, we turn our backs and "wish it away." Putting Felony Franks front and center is a learning lesson for all. Support Felony Franks, and write to Alderman Fioretti to show your support!
Rev. Jim Domiano
Ready to work at Felony Franks
What's in a name? It identifies the true meaning and purpose for any establishment. I commend this couple for taking an interest. My son is a smart and an inspiring music production artist but got into a situation (wrong place wrong time) which is pending. I hope they will continue to open all over the world. I too would love to join their team as a manager (25 yrs. experience) or volunteer in some way. Contact info please?
West Garfield Park
What about gangster tours?
Just a reminder, this is the same town that runs tours of gangster hot spots. What is so bad about a hot dog stand that seems politically incorrect while doing the right thing by giving people a second chance?
Andrews should be applauded
The great guy who is opening the place, Jim Andrews, should be applauded for doing the service to the community that he is doing.
Instead, self-righteous "do-gooders" like Monica Brown will do anything they can to ruin a great thing like Felony Franks by baselessly opposing superficial aspects of the program, such as the name, all for the purpose of shameless self-aggrandizement under the pretense of being a moral and upstanding citizen. What people like Ms. Brown need to do is put their selfish agendas to the side and let the agendas of those who actually care about the neighborhood be carried out. Felony Franks will be supported by those who realize how wonderful Mr. Andrews's venture is and how little consequence the name has in the greater scheme of the endeavor. Ms. Brown can go ahead and protest all she wants; she should have a great time being the only one there as everyone steps around her to support this wonderful place.
Tough for ex-felons to find work
Hello, I just wanted to say I saw Felony Franks on the news today, and I think it's a great idea to help out us e-cons. It's been 15 years since my conviction and even though I was lucky enough to get jobs, it's still hard to find a job where you can tell the truth, yet still feel confident about getting a job. I have a family, and I am out of work right now. No one wants to hire an ex-felon. Can someone please send me an e-mail on who I can talk to about the job? I'm hard working, consistent and have good work skills, and all I am asking is for a chance to find some decent and steady work. If there is a number that I can reach someone to find out what to do, I seriously need a job. Thanks for reading my story.
Felony Franks: job well done
I have a family member who is a felon and has been living with me for almost a year, searching every day for work. She has one arrest, is never in trouble before or since and this has been a major challenge. I think that what Mr. Andrews is doing is wonderful and that people who are trying to make something bad out of a good intention is why people are afraid to get involved helping anyone these days. Job well done and keep up the effort! Rather than looking at it as something which glorifies people who have gotten in trouble, negative thinkers should realize that it is the opposite! Glorifying people getting on the right track is absolutely something to shout about!
Felony Franks in Nevada?
I am a convicted felon. I knew about something my boyfriend at the time did and I did not call the police on him. Because he got charged with the crime and the police found out that I knew about it I was charged with a felony as well. I did learn to always tell the police if someone has done something illegal even if it is family or a close friend. This happened 10 years ago. I can not get a job because of it. I am not a bad person. I think Felony Franks is a great avenue for a convicted felon to get back into the work force and straighten themselves out. I give the guy kudos for doing what he has done. I wonder if he would want to open one where I live in Las Vegas? I would run it for him!
A second chance is a good thing
I'm having a hard time understanding why people are up in arms over the name. Honestly, what this guy is doing is such a noble thing. The name is not glorifying the idea of someone being a felon. It's glorifying the idea of giving someone a second chance to make a good start in life - something few felons get.
Rock Island, Ill.