Diner forced to haul buns
Land sold beneath Aspen Park's famous hot dog
By Ann Schrader
Denver Post Staff Writer
Aspen Park -
For 35 years, the Coney Island hot dog stand has parked its bun along U.S. 285, serving up hamburgers, shakes and, of course, hot dogs.
Now the Paul Bunyan-sized fast- food icon - featured in travel and architectural books and on TV shows, and beloved by diners - is for sale and must move by early March.
The land has been sold from under the 42-foot-long red wienie slathered with green relish and yellow mustard and wrapped in a 34-foot- long beige stucco bun.
"The Coney has outgrown its place there," said Lisa Firman, who has owned the diner six years. "Hopefully, the Coney will stay alive and find a home," preferably along U.S. 285.
The area around the big dog has changed dramatically in recent years as U.S. 285 widened to a four-lane, divided highway. Commercial development has sprung up where aspen once surrounded the Coney.
A year ago, Firman was approached by someone interested in buying the land for a bank.
Losing the community landmark is something that locals, construction workers, campers, hunters and lovers of off-beat roadside Americana don't relish.
"It's so weird-looking you have to stop in," said Ryan Lowe. He munched a burger with his father, Duane, on the Coney's pickle-green, carpeted deck.
"I know a guy who will have a heart attack when he learns this is being sold," Duane Lowe said. "He drives here from Pine Junction because he won't eat anywhere else."
The quarters are cramped, with 10 seats that can cram in a few more if diners get cozy.
"Everybody knows this place," said Ron Martin of Thornton, who has a double cheeseburger every day while working nearby construction. "There aren't too many hot dogs in the mountains."
Conifer resident Dusty Meehan stopped in for fries and a chocolate shake with his 4- year-old daughter, Layla.
"I'm so sorry you guys are moving," Meehan said to manager Mary Hartford, one of nine employees. "This is where my husband gets his fix."
Hartford served a stream of customers and replied, "If it goes south on 285, I'll go with it. But if it goes to Denver, I'm not going."
Born at 4190 W. Colfax Ave. in 1966, the eatery was the prototype for an envisioned chain of 16 metro-area stands. The chain dream went belly up, and the hot dog was carted up to its present locale, southwest of Denver, by Beverly and Jan Slager.
Some locals were hostile, saying the structure was outlandish and its colors garish. But soon they embraced the unique diner.
Colorado historian Tom Noel defended the gaudy Coney in his book "Buildings of Colorado," saying the hot dog's yellow mustard picks up the color of autumn aspen and the green relish matches the nearby evergreens.
Noel called the Coney "extraordinary" and said it should have historic landmark status, citing it as "the best example of roadside architecture in the state."
Vervia Goodwin took it over in 1971 and ran it until Firman and her husband, Tyler, bought it.
The Firmans haven't had a good nibble yet. If a serious offer doesn't materialize, Firman will jack up the 14-ton hot dog and roll it up U.S. 285 rather than see it destroyed. The Firmans have scoped out possible sites near Pine and Bailey.
While a plain hot dog goes for $1.25 at the Coney, Firman is mum about the asking price for the diner.
Staff writer Ann Schrader can be reached at 303-278-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.