After its noted absence raised a small firestorm from loyal customers, the Binky's hot dog cart owned by Dearborn resident Anna Ford has returned to the parking lot of Westborn Mall for the first time this year.
One of those loyal customers wrote a blog post for Dearborn Patch on April 5 that garnered a slew of supporters to bring the cart back to the lot.
According to a press release issued Tuesday, mall owner Tom Petzold “heard and read a wide array of comments from loyal Westborn shoppers on blogs, Facebook and other media” and responded by agreeing to bring Binky's back to Westborn Mall.
In an interview with Dearborn Patch, Petzold said that late in 2009, he was approached by Ford–who already had a food cart in the nearby parking lot on Newman Street–with the idea of a cart in the parking lot of Westborn Mall.
At the time, Petzold said he was considering introducing a restaurant to Westborn Mall.
“I emphasized to her that I could not give her a long-term commitment and I was reluctant to have her invest in hot dog equipment if I wasn’t able to give her any kind of promises," he said. “But she understood that there was that uncertainty.”
With the new addition of the Red Olive, a Mediterranean restaurant, to Westborn Mall, Petzold said the agreement between himself and Ford ended.
But once the community became aware of the cart’s then-permanent absence, Petzold said he was made aware that there were some serious devotees of Ford’s hot dogs.
“That’s a great credit to her and the quality of her operation and the fact that she’s a longtime Dearborn business woman," Petzold said. "I’ll confess to never taking that into consideration."
Petzold stressed that any talks he had with Ford were “respectful,” and he added that previous reports concerning the hot dog stand and its relationship with Westborn Mall had inaccuracies as well, Petzold said.
The biggest of those issues was the stance of Red Olive owner Pete Goulas, who operates 10 such restaurants in metro Detroit. Originally, it was believed that the restaurant had asked Petzold to remove the cart.
But Petzold said the decision was a fiscal one.
“If we’re going to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into building a restaurant," he said, "we should not have food available out in the parking lot–it just seemed intuitive to me.”
Since then, he said that he has realized the positive benefits of having the hot dog cart at the mall.
“I’ve come to recognize the good will that exists between Anna Ford … and all of the customers in Dearborn,” Petzold said. “Our business plan is to provide services to the community and we’ve got one in the hot dog business.”
Goulas touted Red Olive's commitment to community, too.
Goulas shared that his Dearborn restaurant employs nearly 30 people, 90 percent of whom live in Dearborn. A native of Greece, Goulas has lived in Michigan for 30 years, working in the restaurant business and opening his first Red Olive in Livonia six years ago.
Per the new agreement, Petzold said that the cart–which stayed rent-free before–will be paying for its spot in the lot. However, the funds will be donated to charities of Ford's choosing: the and the .
“This is a very fair agreement that benefits everyone involved,” said Ford. “We’re all in business together to serve this community. I know my customers will be especially glad to help these two deserving and well respected non-profits in Dearborn.”
Anna Stassen, an employee of Ford’s, was at the cart today to work the first day of its return to the parking lot.
“It’s just kind of like a Dearborn niche,” she said of Binky's. “The food is good, the hot dogs are good, and the people are nice.”