PORTAGE PARK — The Hot Dog Box, a gourmet sausage shop that opened earlier this year at Six Corners, will close in December.
The shop at 4020 N. Milwaukee Ave., which opened in January to much fanfare and national attention, is closing after experiencing low sales and racial discrimination from some residents of the Northwest Side, owner Bobby Morelli said.
Morelli made the announcement on social media Tuesday night. The shop’s last day is Dec. 16.
Morelli told Block Club the community hasn’t supported the business enough to keep it open.
The shop’s signature dog, the Bronzeville Bourbon Hot Dog, was named one of the best hot dogs in the United States this year by a national food website. Other unique twists on dogs include the Mac Maple Steak, the Waffle Dog and a pizza hot dog.
“We’re such a unique concept, and I don’t think the area is ready to support a concept like this,” Morelli said. “People still travel to see us; however, we just don’t have the local support.”
Morelli also said racial discrimination, disparaging social media comments and exclusion from the area’s inaugural Windy City Hot Dog Fest over the summer contributed to the decision to close.
The Hot Dog Box is one of few Black-owned businesses on the Six Corners strip.
Employees experienced a “mean demeanor” and racial comments from some customers, Morelli said.
“There’s a lack of inclusion and diversity — not just of me being a Black business owner, but [about the hot dog] comparisons,” he said. “It’s not traditional hot dogs. … People assume they are, but they’re not giving it a chance.”
Following news of the closure, some Chicagoans on social media said the spot’s steep prices kept them away. Most of the gourmet hot dogs cost $12.75.
Morelli said that was a criticism he often heard but argued that people pay about the same price or more for sandwiches from other nearby restaurants.
“It’s not the people don’t have the income … a lot of people have misunderstood what we offer because they are comparing it to what they have been used to,” he said.
“They are premium; they’re not a traditional hot dog,” he said.
The father-daughter team’s hot dogs were praised by critics and customers when they opened in a Bronzeville shipping container in August 2021. Travelers from around the Midwest would come by to try their creations.
Morelli decided to open in Portage Park after a developer contacted him to bring his products to the area. He’d already been thinking of expansion and moved quickly on opening the Six Corners spot, he previously said.
Earlier this year, the shop launched its own line of steak hot dogs customers can cook at home.
Although the physical store is closing, the dogs and signature sauces will still be available to buy online, Morelli said.
The business will also fulfill catering orders and events that had been planned.
Morelli said he’s grateful to those who did support the business and hopes to open in another neighborhood in the future.
“I don’t want people to think we have failed; it just didn’t work here,” he said. “We are not bitter, but there are a bunch of variables at play.”