UPDATED — Michael Frimel loves his adopted home of Wichita, but there’s one thing he desperately misses from his Tulsa home of more than 30 years: Coney Island Hot Weiners.
Now, he and business partners Tad Fugate and Drayton Alldritt have signed a 12-state licensing agreement for the concept, and they’re opening their first one in Delano in early November.
“This has been a dream of mine personally for a long time,” Frimel says. “I love Coney Islands.”
Frimel says that Greek immigrant Christ Economou came to America and started his first Coney Island concept based on the hot dogs he found on Coney Island in New York.
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“He then took that concept and traveled across the country,” Frimel says.
He opened a couple dozen of the restaurants and sold them to other Greek immigrants.
“He landed in Tulsa in 1926, and that’s where he stayed,” Frimel says. “It’s been a staple in Tulsa for 92 years now.”
There’s also the Coney I-Lander, which Frimel says one part of Economou’s family started, but Frimel and his partners are licensing Economou’s original concept.
“It’s a very simple menu,” Frimel says. “It’s about a 5 1/2-inch long hot dog on a specialty-made bun, and those buns will be made here in Wichita, and you simply add mustard, cheese, chili or onions to it.”
In addition to the hot dogs, there are Frito pies, tamales and three-way chili.
“So for years when we were in Tulsa, this was our Saturday spot after soccer games (and) sports events,” Frimel says. “It was a very inexpensive meal to take a team.”
The partners are adding one Kansas specialty: cinnamon rolls with chili.
“Many, many, many of the Kansas schools serve that for lunch, typically on a Friday,” Frimel says. “We learned about it when we moved here.”
There also will be craft beer along with soft drinks.
The first Wichita Coney Island Hot Weiners will be in 2,000 square feet at 1001 W. Douglas, which is the corner of Douglas and Walnut, next to TJ’s Burger House.
“We’re working on some fun things for the interior that will help add some seating in an unusual way,” Frimel says.
He and his partners also are looking on the east and west sides of Wichita for more restaurant sites.
“We hope to have another two locations in Wichita within six to nine months,” Frimel says.
“We are already working on potential licensing agreements in several of the other 12 states,” he says. “Many of them we’ll run ourselves. Some could be sublicensed to other potential restaurateurs.”
In addition to Kansas, the states include Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Frimel says he believes Coney Island will catch on.
“The beauty of it is it’s a limited menu,” he says. “And their heritage of it coming from the East Coast is also another big thing that’s important for us. It does have a history. It’s done well in Tulsa, and we’re hoping that that will transfer over to other communities.”