“Out of sight, out of heart. If they had done it all at once, there would have been hell to pay,” says Chris Ryan of the recent removal of hot dog stands outside Home stores Depot and Lowe’s. Ryan and his daughter, Kerri Ginther, each owned a stall (Ryan in Parker and Ginther across from the Southlands Mall in Aurora) until they were told in January that they had thirty days to collect their stalls. equipment.
While this summer saw the return of two booths in Fort Collins, the only one to reopen so far in the Denver area is the Brat Bar in Arvada. In September, Home Depot spokesperson Christina Cornell said Westword, âWe are constantly evaluating the needs of our business and have found that in some areas we need to reallocate space to better meet the renovation needs of our customers. The point is that all of the food vendors in our stores have remained closed since March 2020, and many have voluntarily chosen to move their businesses elsewhere during this time. We appreciate the years of partnership and wish them good luck in their future business.
The withdrawal of hot dog stands at home improvement stores has also occurred outside of Colorado. At the end of July, the Detroit Free Press reported that The Home Depot was shutting down all Michigan food vendors … for good. Store owners had a week to remove all of their equipment.
These stalls are more than just a place to grab a quick and inexpensive bite to eat. Over many years of operation, they have become staples in their communities, with the owners developing many long-standing relationships with customers, booth employees, and those who work in the outposts of Home Depot and Lowe. , many of whom ate the vendors’ lunch during their breaks.
After nearly a decade of activity, the departure notice came as a surprise to Ryan. After all booths closed in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, owners have had no news Street food, the management company responsible for food vendors at Home Depot and Lowe’s, until July of that year. That’s when the monthly emails started. Ryan shared one of those emails, which reads:
We wanted to provide you with an update regarding the resumption of service at Home Depot. We continue to work with Home Depot to develop a comprehensive plan, but at this point we are not at the point where service can resume. We understand that this is a difficult time and you may need to assess whether or not you should continue to wait. If it makes sense for you to remove your food unit, please email me and we’ll get back to you for the next steps. Otherwise, we promise to provide you with another update next month.
âThey gave a light at the end of the tunnel every month,â says Ryan. Eligible for pandemic assistance, she thought she was one of the lucky ones who could afford to wait for the reopening and did not need to look for other options. In fact, she spent 2020 renewing her business license, business insurance, and sales tax license, ready to go when she got a note.
Even after being ordered to remove his equipment in January, Ryan says he received confusing messages about the future of his business. During a Jan. 11 phone call with Paul Spencer, director of customer services for Street Eats, Ryan recalls expressing concern that the removal of his equipment violated his contract with the management company. In response, she said, she was told that a new contract could be made when things picked up, but “not to hold her breath just yet.” She also requested this information in writing and remembers Spencer saying, “Absolutely not.” Spencer and Street Eats did not respond to our request for comment.
âFor months we waited for news while paying off loans,â says Mark Johnson, who ran Dogs Gone Wild outside Home Depot on Mayberry Drive in Highlands Ranch with his wife, Melissa Taylor. Both work full-time as firefighters and never planned to be food vendors, but in 2019 they stumbled upon the stall for sale after a hike and thought it would be a nice way to spend days out. time off from their very stressful job. The stand had been on the Highlands Ranch site for thirteen years and was one of the busiest and most lucrative in the state; Johnson and Taylor purchased the unit in October 2019 and it was approved for operation in January 2020.
âWe had no reason to think there was anything to worry about with this business,â says Taylor, explaining that they had upgraded the entire stand, purchased new signage and had two very months of activity. successful before the notice of cessation of activity of March 2020..
“What happened, in our opinion, is [Home Depot] hidden behind COVID, âTaylor says. “People at work would ask us how the hot dog stand was, and we would tell them, and they would scratch their heads and say it didn’t make sense.”
Taylor and Johnson waited as they watched food trucks reopen across Colorado and heard state officials encourage these types of food stalls to resume operations. At Dogs Gone Wild all food was served packaged, the stall only had one employee working at a time, and the owners were happy to comply with the mask mandates. And yet, even when the indoor restaurants reopened, the stand was still not allowed to resume operations.
While the booths have remained vacant, Home Depot itself has had a very successful year. âThey dramatically increased their sales,â says Taylor. “It’s the hypocrisy of it all.” As these small business owners bided their time, paid for insurance and maintained stalls, people flocked to buy paint and hardware supplies for pandemic projects. The Home Depot announced an increase in sales over the four quarters of 2020, for an overall sales increase of 19.9%. Lowe’s saw an overall increase in sales of 24%.
Cornell contends that the decision to remove the stands is a matter of logistics. âAs a retailer, we just have to consider the space and decide if the business needs it,â she says. âIt might not be right now, but spring is coming, our busy season, or if our construction services team has other uses for this space. In general, we re-evaluate the spaces in our stores and in some cases we have found that we need them. ”
But this reasoning does not ring true for some booth owners. âAt my Lowe’s they replaced my hot dog stand with a water cooler,â says Hunter Slife, owner of Slife’s Devil Dogs, which was once located across from Lowe’s in Littleton and has since moved downtown. from Evergreen. âThey might know more than I do – I’m just the CEO of a food truck – but it doesn’t seem like the same opportunity. ”
âI think they could fit four lawn mowers in my space,â Ginther adds. “Four space lawn mowers are worth my deal?” ”
âThe contract allowed them to do what they did,â Taylor adds. “But our problem from the start was whether nobody cared about the right thing to do?” All we ever wanted them to do was do the right thing.