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Hollenbeck's Hotdogs: The End of an Era or a New Beginning in Hastings?

hollenbeck's hotdogs stand

Sure, let's dive into the mouthwatering yet controversial world of Hollenbeck's Hotdogs, the iconic street vendor of Hastings that recently found itself embroiled in a bureaucratic pickle.

From "Weiner-gate" to "Sausage Scandal", this story has been making the rounds on social media, stirring up much more than the usual condiments. In a town where the hotdog stand has been a staple for over three decades, it's no surprise that its recent licensing issues have prompted public outcry. But before we get to the meat of the story, let's turn the clock back to 1988, when Larry Hollenbeck served the first of his famous hotdogs on the corner of N Jefferson St. and W State St​​.

Larry Hollenbeck, a native of Flint, Michigan, who had a fondness for Koegels Hotdogs, had a vision in 1988. He walked into the Hastings downtown office with an idea to set up a hotdog stand at the intersection of North Jefferson Street and W State Street in Hastings, Michigan, where now the Walldorff Brewpub and Bistro stands. A man known for his congeniality and gift for conversation, Larry once shared his thoughts with Mike Barnaart, now owner of the Walldorff, about how a restaurant would thrive on that corner. To his delight, just a short time later, Mike disclosed that he had purchased the building to do just that.

Larry Hollenbeck of Hollenbeck's hotdogs

At that time, the city had no regulations that would impede Larry's entrepreneurial spirit. According to Margaret Hollenbeck, Larry's wife, the city crafted an ordinance allowing Larry to establish his hotdog stand at the chosen location. With the necessary licenses and insurances secured, he embarked on his journey to serve Barry County residents his delectable hotdogs.

After Larry's death in 2013, his hotdog cart sat idle for some time. However, the Hollenbeck family decided to continue Larry's legacy, rekindling the tradition of serving Hollenbeck's Hotdogs, a tradition that Larry's son, Andy, was deeply familiar with. As Margaret poignantly noted, "Andy grew up on that corner helping his dad sell their famous hotdogs."

However, come 2023, the once familiar sight of the hotdog cart on its regular downtown corner has vanished, causing a stir among its loyal customers and sparking rumors about its fate. Yet the story of Hollenbeck's Hotdogs is far from over. The legacy left by Larry Hollenbeck, a man who could "talk to anybody about anything," and the hotdogs that became a local sensation continue to touch the hearts of Hastings' residents.

So, what's the beef? According to recent Facebook posts by the Hollenbeck's, the city of Hastings has reclassified the hotdog cart as a food truck. In line with City Council, this means the beloved hotdog stand is no longer permitted to set up on the sidewalk downtown, but only on private property. The Hollenbeck's could find another place to set up, but they believe it just wouldn't be the same.

This news was met with a flurry of responses from Hastings residents, with comments ranging from confusion to outrage. Some have questioned the city's decision, pointing out inconsistencies like the allowance of the farmer's market on public property. Others have passionately offered their support, suggesting temporary solutions and expressing their willingness to stand by the Hollenbeck family until the end​​.

Chief Dale Boulter, of the Hastings Police Department, explained that the decision was not meant to single out Hollenbeck's Hotdogs. Instead, it's a response to the growing popularity of food trucks. To make it fair for all food trucks while protecting traditional brick-and-mortar shops, the city passed Ordinance No. 614. This rule does not affect special events with specific zoning and permits, where food trucks and carts are generally prohibited from setting up on public property, except during special events like Summer Fest or the Barry Roubaix, where the city issues specific permits and zoning allowances that enable them to operate.

Now, let's take a closer look at the contentious Ordinance No. 614. It defines a food truck as a mobile unit selling food from a stationary location during serving hours, excluding structures installed on a permanent foundation or mobile trucks that distribute food as they drive through a community. Food trucks are permitted to operate in certain districts, provided they comply with lot area, parking, noise, and other regulations. Interestingly, food trucks cannot be within 150 feet of a permanent business with a food license during its hours of operation​​.

What does the future hold for Hollenbeck's Hotdogs? This question is shrouded in as much uncertainty as a hotdog boiler's water after a bustling day. Margaret Hollenbeck, the matriarch of the hotdog legacy, was taken aback by the changes, having expected that they would be able to continue as they had for the past 30 years. Their intention was to secure the necessary licenses and permits to keep operating their hotdog cart on the same corner of N Jefferson and W State St. Margaret noted, "there isn’t private property downtown [Hastings] that would be like it was when we were on the corner of the Walldorff."

Despite the setback, the Hollenbecks' resolve remains unshaken. Margaret's optimism shines through as she assures, "we’re good, everything will be fine." She acknowledges the disappointment this change has brought not just to her family, but also to their loyal patrons. Yet, Margaret bears no resentment against the city, stating, "people understand that this is disappointing for them [the Hollenbecks] but, I don’t hold it against the city." She adds, "we didn’t want it to get so out of hand. This was not our intent."

The Hollenbecks are committed to finding a way forward. They remain hopeful, exploring all potential paths to bring their cherished hotdogs back to the people of Hastings. Encouraging open conversation, they invite their supporters to express their views and engage in dialogue, in hopes of finding a resolution that satisfies everyone involved. Furthermore, Margaret acknowledges the value of diversity in the local food scene, saying, "I think a food truck or two downtown is good for businesses." Whether the future landscape of Hastings will continue to feature their iconic hotdog cart, only time will tell.

As we await the next chapter in this unfolding saga, the story of Hollenbeck's Hotdogs serves as a poignant reminder of how deeply local businesses can touch the hearts of a community. It also raises questions about the balancing act that cities face in managing the needs and interests of different stakeholders. In this instance, Hastings finds itself in the challenging position of navigating the evolving food truck industry, while ensuring fairness for all local businesses and maintaining the character and charm of its downtown area.

This controversy has certainly stirred the pot, but it has also brought the community closer together, reminding everyone of the values they share. The strong wave of support for Hollenbeck's Hotdogs is a testament to the strength and unity of the people of Hastings. Regardless of how this situation is resolved, it is clear that the spirit of community, resilience, and adaptability will continue to be the true hallmark of Hastings.

So, while the future of Hollenbeck's Hotdogs remains uncertain, one thing is for sure: the community of Hastings will continue to rally behind their beloved hotdog stand, embodying the spirit of unity and resilience that defines them. In this sense, the story of Hollenbeck's Hotdogs is not just about a hotdog stand. It's about the strength of a community, the importance of local businesses, and the capacity to adapt and overcome.

Stay tuned for more updates on this story, as we continue to follow the journey of Hollenbeck's Hotdogs. Will they make a triumphant return to their downtown spot? Or will they find a new location to continue serving their famous hotdogs? Only time will tell. But one thing's for sure: the people of Hastings are hungry for their return, and they're ready to relish whatever comes next​.

City Of Hastings Ordinance NO 614
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