Another Oakland institution may be on the way out. A classified advertisement has been running in the "business opportunities" section of the Post-Gazette for weeks, offering the Original Hotdog Shop for sale -- the business itself, not the building or the business's name for that matter. "In business for 47 yrs," says the ad. "Turnkey operation. $885,000."
No one from any of the three O locations, including the campus of Carnegie Mellon University and Plum Borough -- would comment about the advertisement, other than a gruff confirmation from a nameless voice on the phone at the Forbes Ave. location: "The manager isn't talking about that."
The family-owned restaurant has been an Oakland mainstay since 1960, garnering national attention from hot dog aficionados from Gourmet Magazine and USA Today. But violence has also been an occasional feature near the Oakland location, most recently in October, when a man was shot and killed on the sidewalk next door after leaving an argument that began in front of the restaurant.
James Baldwin of Carnegie, University of Pittsburgh class of '79, recently brought his family to the O for their first experience with the pizza and fries after daughter Jena, 17, took part in a cheerleading competition on Pitt's campus. They were the sole customers on a Sunday evening just before the Steelers whupped the Browns. The news that it could have been their last came as a surprise.
"We're talkin' a tradition!" he says. "Yesterday's tradition is tomorrow's memory." Every now and then, he says, he'll get an urge to stop in. "What can I say, it's an addiction, it gets in your blood. The University will buy it and put a dorm in, I'm telling you. It could happen!"
Baldwin recalled one of his professors' disbelief when, as an undergraduate, he couldn't pinpoint the shop's location.
"You can't be a Pitt student without knowing the O," he says the professor told him.
Daughter Jessica, 20, was surprised at the size of their order of fries, despite her father's warning.
"I didn't know they were gonna be that huge!" she said.
James Baldwin figures, since he says he's got piles of money just lying around, that he'll buy the shop himself and keep tradition alive, $885,000 price tag be damned. Concludes Baldwin: "We can make that the first week in potatoes alone!"