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Jim Andrews opened a hot-dog stand on the West Side in 2009 to give ex-offenders a place to work.
But now, after almost three years of ups and downs, Andrews finally had to call it quits. His restaurant, Felony Franks, closed down on May 27.
"I feel bad. But I had a talk with the guys," said Andrews, who will have to let go all four of his employees - all ex-offenders who were given a chance through Felony Franks.
"Jim Andrews is a great man and this neighborhood needs more businessmen like him," said Calvin Thomas, a manager at the restaurant, 229 S. Western.
The hot dog stand faced many obstacles, from a two-year battle with an alderman over a permit for a sign, to financial troubles.
"I have to do what's best now," Andrews said
Although the doors have closed, Andrews is looking for a new location in Chicago or in the suburbs, in particular Willow Springs or Elmhurst, to reopen his business. Some of the employees blame Adams Liquors, a few doors down from the stand, for Felony Franks' financial difficulties because crowds from the store spilled over in front of the restaurant.
"I think it's terrible," Mirian Hernandez, a worker at Felony Franks, said. "It was a good idea until that liquor store moved in."
The hardest part for Andrews is letting his employees go.
"They almost brought me to tears," he said. "They said, 'We are here to the end with you, Jimmy, and we appreciate what you did for us.'"
Thomas said he will focus on his web development business, and Hernandez will work for a friend of Andrews' at another restaurant. Andrews plans to help the other employees if they need it. "They could collect unemployment until the transition is over," he said.
Local residents came in last week to enjoy their last Misdemeanor Wiener, Pardon Dog, and Probation Burger. If Andrews has his way, Felony Franks won't be gone for long. He's planning ways to bring back his business, but for now he can no longer fight.
"I have to stop bleeding," Andrews said. "I'm bleeding too hard now."