Veterans Day spotlight: Ex-Army officer revives iconic hot dog brand as a family business
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Jimmy Quinn was fresh out of college when he landed his first real job at Cantor Fitzgerald, a Wall Street firm with offices in one of the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
His desk was just three floors above the spot where a hijacked airliner slammed into the building on 9/11, part of a coordinated attack that toppled both structures, damaged the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. and brought down an airliner in Pennsylvania, killing thousands.
At Cantor Fitzgerald alone, 658 employees, including Jimmy Quinn, died, accounting for 68 percent of the firm’s workforce.
Jimmy Quinn “was looking to become a broker at the time,” Joe Quinn told FOX Business, though he and his brothers had dreamed of one day opening their own business. Fifteen years after the attacks, the two survivors made their childhood ambition a reality, relaunching the iconic Feltman’s hot dog brand in their native Brooklyn, New York.
The business venture followed Joe Quinn’s nearly 10-year stint in the Army, where he completed two tours in Iraq and another in Afghanistan after graduating from West Point a couple of months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I went into the Army as a lieutenant and eventually received the rank of captain,” Joe Quinn said.
Back at home in Brooklyn, he and Michael Quinn remembered the stories their uncle had told them about Feltman’s hot dogs and how good they were.
The founder, Charles Feltman, a German immigrant, had invented the popular lunch In the summer of 1867, selling it to Coney Island beachgoers from his former pie cart.
It proved to be a massive hit in the Brooklyn neighborhood, partly because it was easy to eat while strolling near the water. (The first part of the boardwalk for which the neighborhood is now famous wouldn’t be opened until 1923.)
Feltman’s would go on to expand into a restaurant before eventually closing in 1954, according to the company’s website.
“It was just a sad thing, Charles Feltman created the hot dog and then was sort of gone from history,” Joe Quinn said. “Just like my brother. We wanted to keep their memories alive, you know? Both were a part of history, and we are bringing them back.”
Today, Feltman’s is selling 1,500 hot dogs at stores across the country.
Capt. Joe Quinn, right, with Gen. David Petraeus.
“It’s almost like correcting an injustice. These two deserve to be remembered, to have their part in history live on,” Joe Quinn said.
Left to right, Joe, Jimmy and Michael Quinn as teens.
When he’s not busy tending to the family business, Joe Quinn serves as the executive director of the Headstrong Project, which offers free mental health services to veterans. The organization will receive all the proceeds from Veterans Day weekend sales this year.
The Headstrong Project “is an organization that’s dear to my heart,” Joe Quinn said. “Obviously, we are a veteran-owned company, and when I came back from the wars, I struggled in that transition.”
Feltman’s, he said, also gives him an opportunity to do something more than simply run a business.
“My brother Michael loves the history,” he said, “but my real passion is hiring veterans on the team and bringing good publicity for veterans.”