Crowd-Funding Campaign Seeks To Revive Feltman’s — The Original Coney Island Hot Dog

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(Photo: Feltman's of Coney Island / Facebook)

(Photo: Feltman’s of Coney Island / Facebook)

For more than a half-century, Coney Island’s Nathan’s Famous has been peerless among Brooklyn’s seaside hot dog slingers — both as a local favorite and a global brand. But there was once an older, more established competitor to Nathan’s, credited with creating the original hot dog. And two brothers are seeking to revive the brand.

Coney Island historian and blogger Michael Quinn announced he and his brother Joseph have launched a crowd-funding campaign to sell Feltman’s hot dogs at restaurants throughout the city. Feltman’s is widely credited as the original hot dog. It’s creator, German immigrant Charles Feltman started selling his creations in a pushcart in Coney Island in 1867. Four years later, he opened a restaurant, Feltman’s German Gardens, that sold hot dogs in Coney Island until the business closed in 1954. Nathan Handwerker, who went on to establish Nathan’s, got his start working at Feltman’s.

As we reported last year, the Quinn brothers brought back the first Feltman’s hot dogs at a pop up shop in the Ditmas Park bar Sycamore. They’ve since established more pop up shops at Kings County Distillery, Augurs Well in the East Village and the Parkside Lounge on Houston Street, according to Quinn’s blog.

Now he and his brother have launched an online crowd-funding campaign to grow their fledgling franchise and bring it to restaurants throughout New York City. They’ve also partnered with sausage-industry veteran Josef Brunner, who backed the late Bark Dogs in Park Slope, to help recreate the Feltman’s dog, Grub Street reports.

Quinn said on his blog that he has a strong ties to the Feltman’s brand: “My grandfather would park in front of 1000 Surf ave. and walk out of Feltman’s with a beer tray full of hot dogs. The hot dogs my grandfather consumed were true Frankfurter sausages not loaded with nitrates and fillers and with spices just like the one’s we’re selling today.”

The crowd-funding effort has so far only raised $215 of its $50,000 goal. Quinn told Bowery Boogie the money is needed to cover overhead costs, shipping, and labeling. He also hopes to some day set up a real restaurant in Coney Island to sell his hot dogs, and return Feltman’s to the seashore.

Quinn still has a long road to travel before he brings Feltman’s back to its roots. But if he does bring his upstart franchise back to Coney Island, he plans to sell his hot dogs at half the price of Nathan’s, according to Brooklyn Magazine. That would be a reversal of the historic hot dog rivalry between the two franchises. (Nathan’s famous did the same thing to Feltman’s in 1915, Brooklyn Magazine reports.)

Smells like payback.

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  • Robert D

    If your product was that good you would not need to ask for funding.

    • Sean F

      It’s the crowd-centric generation, Robert D. The thinking is that if many people pony up $5 each, it must be good. Once the company gets started, they’ll probably produce their product using the “gig economy” – people with time on their hands will be in their own kitchens stuffing and curing sausages for them. Or it will go deeper, and people with small kitchens will rent other people’s kitchens through AirBnB so they can stuff and cure sausages. But, if it keeps these sausage makers in the kitchen, rather than have them on the streets driving for Uber or Lyft, it’s a win-win situation.

      • Robert D

        I’m starting to think we’re the last two sane people left in this town.

        Unlike hotdogs i do think that sites like Kickstarter are an excellent idea in a world where some idea’s are incredibly costly to make as an independant company. I.E. a record for a musician, a short film, or a video game. But f@#$% hotdogs! HOTDOGS!!!

        • Sean F

          Well, as a writer and publisher, I agree that Kickstarter can be very useful for creative projects, especially the types you list. For Feltman’s to make it as a major business in Coney Island, they are going to need more than crowd funding. Between real estate prices in Coney and trying to compete with Nathan’s at half the price, they’ll need some VC dollars to make it happen.

          I did check out their GoFundMe page. A $50 donation gets you a kiss from the owner as an incentive. $100 gets you a hat and a shirt, but no kiss. So far, one $50 donation, one $100 donation, and a few in the $20-$25 range. All about a month ago. Not a lot of excitement about this project.

          I look on the history of Coney Island hot dogs the way I look on the history of cola drinks. The first cola drink was made in 1881. No one seems to know its name. In 1886, Coke was invented, and is still around. Nathan’s is the Coke of Coney Island hot dogs. Feltman’s is… the other one.

  • Sean F

    I find it hard to believe that they can recapture the original taste of something that no one has tasted in 62 years without having the actual recipe. No matter how good the product ultimately is, Nathan’s will remain the authentic taste of Coney Island.