FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KTVU) - Steve and Stephanie Brandt own Famous Vinnies Hot Dogs, a small, privately-run restaurant in Fairfield, California. Their main source of marketing is “Hot Dog Man,” a six-foot-tall, humanized hot dog statue with an American flag draped over its back.
Hot Dog Man was vandalized Tuesday for the second time in two months, and its defacement comes at a time when the nation is abuzz over the treatment and respect of the the American flag.
Ten minutes after the Brandts got home from their day at the restaurant, they got the call that someone smashed the statue on the ground and it was now missing an arm. By the time Steve Brandt, 38, arrived, police were already speaking with a person that Brandt describes as a local homeless woman who causes riffs in the area.
Shortly after Brandt took to Facebook to “vent,” Corrin Ignatieff, a local business owner started a GoFundMe, unbeknownst to the Brandts.
Brandt describes the road to owning Famous Vinnies and hard-fought. They poured everything into their restaurant and the ebbs and flows taught them how to rally during tough times. So when news of the fundraiser reached them, it struck a particular chord with Brandt.
“We went to bed and I was feeling sad and defeated,” he said. “Then I woke up to see the outpouring of support from the community and I’ve had a smile ever since.” As of Friday, the campaign had raised $170 out of a $5,000 goal.
The Brandts are parents and average small business owners. The recent work of local vandals cost them $3,000 – money they barely had.
Brandt doesn’t know how long it will take to have it fixed this time, but he knows that one move from the “local thorn in business owners’ side” added another pricey repair to the many that remain untouched.
Following the last time the statue was vandalized, they spent the money to have it professionally restored. And when it came time to display, they were proud. When long lines formed, the couple attributed a great deal of it to the statue.
“We have a hot dog statue that sits out front and attracts people,” Brandt said.
Famous Vinnies' main purpose is to support the Brandts' daughter and fund Stephanie’s pursuit of a third degree.
Steve and Stephanie, 35, spend their day managing the day-to-day operations at their business that employs four others. And after they leave for the day, Stephanie heads off to Napa Valley College, where she is studying to become an engineer.
“School is my wife’s dream, and hot dogs turned out to be mine,” said Brandt.
Brandt jokingly adds that included in the future repairs will be a mount to put Hot Dog Man on the roof.