Fire at Weaver's Hot Dogs in London

Weaver's Hot Dogs Feb 2, 2015
London Fire Departments Fighting the Fire at Weaver's Hot Dogs - London, Kentucky.
Photo by Willie Sawyers of the London Sentinel-Echo.
Fire engulfed a London, Kentucky landmark early yesterday morning. Weaver's Hot Dogs had been operated by the Weaver family since 1940. In its original iteration, Weaver's operated as a pool hall. Future plans for Weaver's, and for the structure it occupied for decades, remain unknown. According to news reports, "Weaver's was destroyed."

Famous Chili Dogs

The Laurel County institution was most famous for its chili dogs. According to family history, the current owner's grandfather "purchased the chili [recipe] in the 1940s for $25 from a man in Corbin, Ky. who was on his way to New Mexico. [Weaver] took the recipe and tweaked it a little bit and made it his own."

The following clip from KET highlights just how good those chili dogs were and gives a good perspective of how history played a role in the 70+ year old business. At one point, the location is even described as hosting a virtual history of London.

Several hundred hot dogs consumed each day alongside 90 pounds of made-daily chili. Wow! And a look at the menu revealed that Weaver's was Kentucky Proud and that it also offered quite a bit more than hot dogs.

Alan Cornett, on his blog Eat Kentucky, noted that the Weaver's experience was unexpected: a sidewalk sign for hot dogs leads to the expectation of "a bar stool and counter type steup, but Weaver's, although casual, is a sit down, full-service restaurant." Cornett concluded that Weaver's to be "a gem of southeastern Kentucky eating."

131 North Main Street

Weaver's location is at 131 North Main Street, is part of the London Downtown Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register provides this description for 131 North Main:
The Kroger Company was founded in 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and soon became one of the leading grocery store chains in the upland south. The building is a 1-story 1-bay one-part commercial block masonry building built in the period 1920-1929. The foundation is undetermined. Exterior walls are replacement wood paneling. Flat roof clad in replacement rubberized/asphalt composite. While the front facade has been altered the sides of the building and the rear are original brick. The massing steps downward toward the rear and the cornice is topped by leaded metal coping.
Imagine just how many Londoners and visitors to the south central Kentucky town, alike, visited this building either during its long life as Weaver's or before when Kroger occupied the space? Do you have memories of eating at Weaver's? Share them in the comments! Do you remember when Kroger was on this part of Main Street?

Weaver's expanded recently into the newer adjacent building (built in the 1930s) that once housed Golde's Clothing Store.

A Community Landmark

Weaver's Facebook page is already full of comments from patrons and friends alike mourning the loss, recalling good times, and hoping for a grand reopening:

Bonnie's comment of the community's "strong connection to Weaver's" speaks volumes of how important Weaver's was and is to London, Kentucky. The desire for Weaver's to reopen is strong (I certainly hope it does, because I've never gotten to try that chili dog!) and I hope that Weaver's remains part of the character of downtown London, Kentucky. If it re-opened elsewhere, would Weaver's be the same? 

Another video offers an unfiltered take on Weaver's from its patrons, staff and owners:

Whispers in Washington

Word of Weaver's and its long history have even reached the halls of Congress. In 2011, Senator Mitch McConnell rose to honor Clyde Brock (then 94 years old, Mr. Brock passed away in January 2012). Senator McConnell described Brock as "one of Kentucky's inspiration treasures" and appreciated how Brock had "remembered for us the monumental events and cherished memories that helped shape his life." Among those memories included in the Congressional Record were Brock's college days at Sue Bennett College and his recollection of Weaver's pool room where "you could get a hamburger and a bottle of pop there and it would cost about 15 cents."

Prices have gone up, but the same order remained under $5.

And McConnell's mention certainly wasn't Weaver's sole claim to fame. The photo-lined wall revealed many famed visitors including former Senator and Vice-President Alben Barkley.

But whether its customers walked the halls of power or the sidewalks of London, it seems like Weaver's was a place that had a lasting impression on those who dined within.

I haven't been there before, but I hope I'm there for the re-opening. Fingers crossed.