Since the late 1980s, hot dog carts in downtown Crown Point have served up Chicago dogs, Maxwell Street Polishes, chili cheese dogs, chips and other favorites.
Madalyn Beasley started grilling up "the best beef dog in town" in 1988. Nearly a decade ago, "The Hot Dog Guy" Mike Adams took over the downtown hot dog carts, including at the Old Lake County Courthouse square.
It looked like 31 years of tradition would come to an end last week when Adams announced he was closing the longtime business. He accepted a position as driver trainer with the Crown Point Community School Corp., training the school district's bus drivers. His son, who's helped him out, is graduating from Ivy Tech Community College and looking to find work in the utility industry.
"As much as this hurts me to announce this, I also have to realize that I am not getting any younger, and to have this job with excellent health and medical, dental and vision benefits is a no brainer ... not to mention I like what I do," Adams announced on Facebook.
That's when Chris Damjanovic and his dad Milan Damjanovic stepped in to save the business and keep it going. They bought both of The Hot Dog Guy carts for an undisclosed sum and hope to open them for the season later this month, in the parking lot by the bowling alley and on the courthouse square.
"I believe in my heart that these two fine gentlemen will represent what The Hot Dog Guy worked so hard to do, and that was to serve good, hot food with a smile, a wave, a hug, a prayer when needed, and a friendly warm environment," Adams wrote on Facebook.
Chris Damjanovic, who works in the food industry, had been looking for a secondary business. He enlisted the help of his father, a retired Crown Point police officer who was also head of security for Crown Point schools.
"This will be a new adventure for him," Chris Damjanovic said. "We're a Crown Point family. I've always been fond of the hot dog cart. When I was a freshman in high school in 1997, it was an open campus for lunch. I ate there pretty much every day."
The Damjanovics plan to keep the same menu of hot dogs, Polish sausages and chips, and leave the business name the same for now, though they may change it later.
"People on the square like to be able to get something to eat and not have to be inside a restaurant," Chris Damjanovic said. "It's nice to be able to get a Chicago-style dog for a couple bucks or a water or soda and just sit on the steps of the square and enjoy downtown."
Eventually, they want to look at renting the carts out for birthday parties, weddings, block parties and other special events.
They tentatively plan to have both locations open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October, or whenever the weather turns and diminishes foot traffic.
"The hot dog cart adds to the atmosphere on the square," he said. "It's been a tradition for 30 years and we see no reason for it to stop."
For more information, follow The Hot Dog Guy on Facebook.