Since its inception at the Columbian Exposition/World’s Fair in 1893, Vienna Beef has always had a factory store and sandwich shop on the grounds of its manufacturing facility. The original factory opened a store on Halsted and Maxwell Street, in the area that used to be referred to as ‘The Great West Side’. Vienna Beef was a very important element of the city with a store that catered to the community and whose staff had loads of personality—many of them were ‘characters’ in their own right. Manager Leo Braun is well remembered as being part of the lore that always had delicious sandwiches accompanied by great stories. When the Depression Era hit, the Vienna Beef Factory Store became one of the first hot dog stands featuring a Vienna Beef hot dog dragged through the garden, with yellow mustard, chopped onion, bright green relish, and cucumber to satisfy hungry folks in the neighborhood.
For the past 45 years, the Factory Store and Café has been located on the Damen and Fullerton property, with a ‘melting pot’ of noteworthy mangers, employees and customers. Joe Schnieder always had specials of the day, hour, and minute. June Rohel had a great smile and was a friend to the employees and the neighborhood. Cristel Wiedle-Knight, who began as an employee in our Damen Avenue Factory Store, and is now our sausage miester. For the last decade, Jan Wix has been at the helm of turning the Factory Store and Café into the landmark it is today. She hired Denise Parente, a former customer who has taken the store to a new level of operations and customer service. In 2016, Jan and Denise opened a second store across the street from our factory at Pershing Road and Morgan Street, on Chicago’s South Side.
The Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame was created to honor hot dog operations that have achieved longevity and have developed into true neighborhood and city landmarks. Out of all of the thousands of Vienna Beef customers, we have recognized 124 nationwide since the award was inaugurated back in 2006. With our storied history, it seems fitting on National Hot Dog Day and on the cusp of Vienna’s 125th anniversary, that our Factory Store & Café be named as the 125th recipient of the Hot Dog Hall of Fame. From all of us here at Vienna, we thank and congratulate Jan, Denise, and their entire team, who helped build this iconic landmark to an important part of Chicago’s landscape.