It was a three-year run in Oak Park for Deno Andrews, but on Monday the Oak Park trustee announced he has closed Felony Franks, a fast-food restaurant on North Avenue known for hiring ex-offenders.
Reached by phone, Andrews said it is a “cautionary tale for not only our village but the county and the state and that when costs rise faster than markets can sustain them things like this happen.”
Felony Franks, 6427 W. North, also is known for its distinct marketing strategy, using prison-related themes, with names like the Misdemeanor Wiener and Felony Fries.
Andrews announced the closure of the business on Facebook, noting that “property taxes, new labor laws and the cost of goods increased faster than the market was willing to pay for such increases.”
In an effort to keep up with rising costs, Andrews had to raise prices, he said, which was too much of a burden for his customers.
Andrews said in an interview that two-thirds to three-quarters of his business was not from Oak Park and they are not in a position to have large increases in prices.
“We were faced with having to lower our standards in order to stay afloat. We did what we could, but I was just not behind any substantial lowering of standards for obvious reasons. Many customers noticed we went down a notch, mainly because we had to lower staffing hours,” he said.
Andrews, who was elected to the Oak Park Board of Trustees earlier this year, continues his work with Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage businesses to hire ex-offenders.
He was awarded a $50,000 grant in 2016 from the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation’s Big Idea contest, which offers the grant annually for business ideas that provide a public service in the community.
Andrews said the grant is for 18 months and he has been working with small businesses and larger retailers in town to boost the idea of hiring ex-offenders.
He noted in his farewell letter on Facebook that Felony Franks has a zero recidivism rate with its employees.
“The city of Chicago has a 54 percent recidivism rate in the same time period. Creating jobs, sharing knowledge, and helping people who deserve a second chance really has an impact on our community,” he said in his farewell letter.
Andrews also has been working on a community funded café project that would likely be located in the northeast area of Oak Park.
Andrews said in his farewell letter that he is considering his options for the future of Felony Franks.
“The restaurant business really needs a hands-on owner,” he wrote, adding, “I would consider financing a sale of the business and/or equipment. We have a turn-key situation for someone who wants to hit the ground running. I believe the place could work if an owner was there more than I can be.”
Meanwhile, Andrews said he has no shortage of things to do in the village.
“This will help me focus my attention on these existing projects and being successful as a trustee,” he said.