After 13 years in business at the same location, Frank’s Franks will no longer be allowed to operate from the Cape Cod Children’s Museum parking lot.
“I’m sorry I’m not going to be there anymore, Frank’s Franks will find a new location nearby,” said Frank Ahern, the owner and operator of the small cart which has served hot dogs outside the museum since 2007.
Mr. Ahern said he was told in late November by the museum’s director, Lisa Bates, that his business would not be welcomed back at the children’s museum next spring.
“There I am on their computer in their office, renewing the permit for their kitchen and at that time she came in and told me I’m done,” he said. “I was just floored, I just got up and walked out.”
In a statement, the Cape Cod Children’s Museum said that board of directors is conducting a self-audit of the museum’s leases, permits and potential liabilities and has decided not to renew Mr. Ahern’s permit or its own food permit.
“The Museum’s Board has determined that the Museum cannot assume the multiple liabilities associated with operating a food service, nor is it fiscally responsible for us to do so,” the statement said.
Mr. Ahern said that when Ms. Bates told him in November that Frank’s Franks would not be allowed to return she stated a concern with the customers, many of whom are not patrons of the museum.
“As part of this [self-audit] we are also revisiting all our policies and procedures to insure the safest and best experience for the children who visit,” the statement from the museum said.
Ms. Bates was not available for comment.
Mr. Ahern said that only about 10 percent of his customers were patrons of the museum and that “the rest of my customers were local tradespeople, landscapers, tree workers, pool maintenance people, tradesmen, elderly people from New Seabury.”
“I’ve always taken the concern of the kids safety as really my first priority,” Mr. Ahern said. “Never ever has there been a police incident, ever.”
“As a matter of fact, the local police often stop by and get a hot dog,” he said.
Mr. Ahern said that his work at the children’s museum extended beyond just serving hot dogs.
“When I first started there 13 years ago that building was shabby,” he said. “I helped paint the building, I renovated the kitchen, bought them a new stove, I cut the grass constantly and landscaped. I did a lot of work for that place.”
The hot dog vendor also served on the children’s museum’s board for three years and brought his children and grandchildren to the museum, he said.
One of his children, Jennifer Gladkowski, has started an online petition to “Save Frank’s Frank’s Hot Dog Cart.” In the approximately two weeks since the petition was first posted, it has garnered more than 3,000 signatures.
“We grew up going to the museum and now his grandchildren play at the children’s museum,” Ms. Gladkowski wrote in the petition.
Mr. Ahern said that even with the petition, his hot dog stand making a return to the Cape Cod Children’s Museum is “a long shot.”
But, in his time in the children’s museum parking lot, “I made friends with a lot of my customers” and the business “really grew over the years,” he said.
“It took off like a rocket the day I opened,” Mr. Ahern said. “That was June 7, 2007, and they were building New Seabury like crazy, they were putting up condos. By my third day in business I had lines of people, there were framing crews, electricians, workers, tons and tons of people.”
When the recession was at its peak in 2008, though, business petered out a bit, he said.
“I think the hardest group that was hit at that time was the single mothers,” the hot dog vendor said. “Sometimes they would come in and would say look ‘I’ve only got a dollar a dollar fifty,’ and they’d have like three children with them, ‘can we split a hot dog with the kids?’”
“I said don’t worry about it,” Mr. Ahern said. “I would give them all free hot dogs, I would give them all the little Capri Sun packages and I’d say take some chips and stuff too. What’s it going to cost me? What am I losing five bucks or something?”
While Mr. Ahern said he was “angry as hell” when he was first told Frank’s Franks would not be allowed to continue operating at the Cape Cod Children’s Museum, he also said, “I can understand why they want me out of there. I have so many customers that come in with trucks and cars, it does take up a lot of room, at lunch time it does get very busy down there.”
“I made friends with a lot of my customers,” Mr. Ahern said. “We’re still friends today, a lot of them have already packed up and moved to Florida so when they come back in the spring and I’m not there they’re going to be cranky.”
“It will be a surprise for them,” he said. “I had a lot of people stop by and say ‘Hey Frank we’ll see you in the spring, can’t wait to come back.’”