Chili Dogs and Change

Highland Park, MI –

One hundred years is a long time for any business to be open and after three generations, Rich and Carol Harlan have decided to make a change. The longtime owners of Red Hots Coney Island are moving into the retail business, selling the chili that topped their famous Coney Dogs for the last century in grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the area.

This corner of Woodward Ave and Victor Street will be a little quieter during the lunch rush, but after working nearly every day for the last 50 years Rich and Carol have certainly earned a little peace. “Our bodies are telling us it’s time,” Carol Harlan told the Detroit Free Press. “We are closing on our terms.” Their daughter Christina, who also helps around the restaurant, wanted to make sure that despite the restaurant closing, the secret family chili recipe would not be lost to time – or to their loyal customers. So, after the retirement party on June 26th, they’ll be full steam ahead with this new venture offering 16 oz tubs of their famous chili for sale in retail stores.

Highland Park is a very different place today than it was in 1921, when Rich’s great uncle opened Red Hots Coney Island. When asked how they could be successful for this long, the answer was simple: “Because families have brought their families in, and it’s been a continuation of that,” Rich said to the Detroit News. “I have many, many families that are third and fourth generation that still come into the restaurant.” 

The fifth generation of customers might not see the same restaurant here, though the exact closing date is still not set in stone. This change does allow the Harlans to enjoy their retirement and maybe do a few things they missed out on over the years while serving their community. But, Rich isn’t just the type to abandon a place that means so much to him. “I’m willing to work with a new owner that comes in, I won’t walk off and leave them dry. I’ll stay and introduce him to customers so they’ll keep coming back,” he said to the Detroit News. “It’s hard for me to say I want to retire, it’s just it’s time.”

If you’d like to try these famous Coney Dogs, stop by this Saturday from 11am-4pm where $10 will get you all-you-can-eat and as much Vernors as you can drink. Shirts and other merchandise will be available as well.

So as one century-old establishment closes their doors in the coming weeks, the space will still be there ready to house a new restaurant and a new family. Who knows, maybe we’ll follow up with whatever comes after Red Hots Coney Island in another hundred years and talk about how they got their start here, this year. For now, Rich and Carol Harlan’s daughter Christina perhaps said it best: “From our family to yours, thank you.”

Red Hots Coney Island

12 Victor St, Highland Park, MI 48203