Odie Dogs Owner Says He's Leaving; Cites Negative Attitude By Some In Douglas
There is not a dog’s chance the street food vendor that set up shop in front of Beery Field this summer season will open a brick-and-mortar business in Douglas’ downtown district as he was planning to do and was already in the process of doing.
Odie Dogs owner Eric Chaitin told the Douglas City Council during its meeting Monday that he is taking his investment and business “somewhere else” - to the City of Holland.
“The feeling I’ve gotten from a minority of people is one of great unwelcome. The spirit of the letters addressed to council (from a number of business community members) contained information not based on numerical facts, but contradictory passion.”
Such is the way the debate over Odie Dogs culminated since it started this spring when the hot dog cart business was approved by the city council.
Chaitin thanked the council for its support in testing the waters with an “incubator program” designed to take Odie Dogs - and any future street food vendors - from the two parking spaces in front of Beery Field into a full-fledged brick-and-mortar operation along Center Street.
He said he is no longer interested in the incubator program and will invest his money in opening a restaurant in Holland.
“I think it’s a restaurant this town could use,” he said, reiterating his assertion that if Douglas is to grow and become vibrant, it must diversify the type of food it offers to its visitors and locals alike.
Among others, David Gregersen, owner of Lakeview Lanes & Grill, is a critic.
“This is not a personal issue. I don’t have a problem with Eric (Chaitin), but I believe it is the wrong thing to do to allow street vendors on this street,” said Gregersen.
“We have a lot of local land to develop and the best way to do that is to encourage people to start brick-and-mortar businesses.”
Odie Dogs also has its supporters, like Fran Martin of Cookies On Call, who at Monday’s meeting reiterated her opinions expressed in a September 10 memo to council, that stated, in part:
“Since 2008 when I moved Cookies on Call to Center Street, I have watched people come into town then leave just as quickly because there was no place to eat or that they didn’t find something to their liking.
“Odie Dogs provided a lunch option which influences my decision (from skeptic to supporter),” she added
“Additionally, I found their menu had affordable pricing and was concept appealing, while recognizing that it had the potential to expand our downtown demographic to families with children.”
For all the debate - and despite his stated plans for opening a Holland restaurant - Chaitin said he is interested in a future business prospect at Blue Star Highway in Douglas, housing his hot dog business in the old Root Beer Barrel.
The 17-foot-high by 10-foot-diameter barrel housed a small restaurant in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2010, the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society bought the barrel in an ongoing effort to restore and find a place for it.
Odie Dogs’ contract with the city ends at the end of this year. Council members said they will continue to discuss the subject of developing an ordinance to deal with similar businesses in the future.