“I’m not supposed to talk to anyone,” says the owner of several hot dog stands that operated outside of Home Depot locations in the Denver area for over twenty years…until March 2020.

Before the pandemic hit, hot dog stands could be found at Home Depots all over Colorado; they included Billy’s Brats at the Littleton store; the Brat Bar, which had four locations, including Arvada and Glendale; and other vendors in Fort Collins, Morrison and Colorado Springs. Grabbing a dog while on a home-improvement run was a much-loved tradition not just in metro Denver, but all over the country.

But even as Colorado’s Home Depot stores were allowed to stay open as essential businesses, the vendors disappeared.

While this summer saw the return of two stands in Fort Collins, so far the only one to reopen in the Denver area is the Brat Bar in Arvada. Employees at the Glendale store had assumed their stand would reopen — until the owner returned in June to collect his equipment. And at the Littleton Home Depot, employees admit they have little hope that Billy’s Brats will return.

The hot dog stand owner with whom we spoke requested that his name be kept confidential, but confirmed that he was directed to close by management company Street Eats, which is responsible for Home Depot’s food vendors. Street Eats acts as a sort of landlord, approving vendor applications and collecting monthly payments; the company has not responded to a request for comment.

At the end of July, the Detroit Free Press reported that Home Depot was closing every food vendor in Michigan…for good. Store owners were given one week to remove all of their equipment. Devastated customers took to social media to express their shock and confusion; petitions were started. “We’re devastated — especially because there was no explanation,” posted Michigan Representative Darrin Camilleri on his Facebook page, noting that his aunt ran one of the stands for ten years. “That stand made my aunt so happy, and we know it made customers happy too. I hope The Home Depot reconsiders this decision.”

click to enlarge The Brat Bar in Arvada is the only stand currently operating outside a Home Depot in the Denver area. - KERSTEN JAEGER

The Brat Bar in Arvada is the only stand currently operating outside a Home Depot in the Denver area.

Kersten Jaeger

Home Depot’s response came in the form of a statement from spokesperson Christina Cornell, who explained that the corporation was focusing on serving customers with their home-improvement needs and that it wished the food vendors “well in their future business.”

As for the future of hot dog stands in Colorado, Cornell declines to offer any specifics, but notes that the food vendors are “great, passionate people,” and explains that the decision to shut down depends on the stand and could come from Home Depot, Street Eats or the vendors themselves. She also offers this statement:

“We’re continuously evaluating the needs of our business, and we found that in some areas we need to repurpose the space to better serve our customers’ home improvement needs. The fact is that all food vendors at our stores have remained closed since March 2020, and many voluntarily chose to move their business somewhere else during that time. We appreciate the years of partnership and wish them well in their future business.”

While some vendors may have moved on to other things during the pandemic, many waited for months for word on whether they could reopen. The owner of Schmickel’s in Fort Collins received approval to reopen in July, after a long year of scraping by, according to the Coloradoan. The Brat Bar got the okay to reopen in Arvada more recently.

Even before the pandemic, Home Depot had put some vendors on the hot spot. In 2013, Angelo Micklos was given thirty days’ notice to vacate after 21 years of operating stands at six Home Depot locations in Maryland; at the time, spokesman Stephen Holmes explained that the company was interested in using the space for other purposes. In 2002, Nathan’s Famous was forced to close its eight in-store stands in New York City and South Florida; spokesman Jerry Shields Sr. said that it might be more profitable to use the space for other Home Depot products.

These closures are not limited to Home Depot; Lowe’s has made similar decisions in previous years.

For now, if you’re hungry for home-improvement supplies as well as a snack, your best bet is the Home Depot in Arvada. So far, it appears to be the only metro store that cuts the mustard.