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A sad week in hot dog news indeed. Jimmy John's Piping Hot Sandwiches of West Chester, Pennsylvania, one of the oldest hamburger and hot dog stands in the area, was gutted by a kitchen fire last Saturday on the morning of their 70th anniversary, as they were gearing up to sell 70-cent hot dogs all day.

Jimmy John's was known for their "old-fashioned special frankfurters"—a Dietz & Watson natural casing, short and stout dog almost similar in size to a Zwiegle's frank. Very unique, especially for the Philadelphia area. And I'm kicking myself for never getting out there. Especially now that the stories are pouring in from the community, and you get a sense of how important Jimmy John's was to generations of people.

One of the most incredible stories comes from the granddaughter of Andrew Wyeth, acclaimed painter from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and son of NC Wyeth—probably one of the most important families in the history of American Illustration. The family were regulars at Jimmy John's, and the legend is that Andrew Wyeth would reward himself with a cheeseburger or special dog after finishing a painting. On his deathbed last year, one of his last requests was a Jimmy John's hot dog and a black and white milkshake.

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[Photographs: Mod Betty of Retroroadmap]

Along with the antique electric trains and collection of memorabilia that were signatures of Jimmy John's decor, the walls were plastered with photos of customers from the last 70 years. The good news is a few of the trains and most of the photos were recovered, and Jimmy John's absolutely intends to rebuild.

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This wouldn't be the first time that Jimmy John's has to rebuild. It started as an open-air stand on the side of the road in 1940 opened by Jimmy John and his wife Louise, selling soft drinks and 15-cent hot dogs. As business grew they put up a larger, more permanent building in 1948. In 1960, that building was demolished to expand the highway, and Jimmy John's was rebuilt again, with additions for seating built in 1973.

With the overwhelming support from the community, and Jimmy John's knack for rebuilding time and time again, let's hope they'll be back soon, and all the people (like me) who drove by and read about Jimmy John's hundreds of times, but just never made it there, will have their chance to try it out.

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To stay up to date on the future of Jimmy John's you can follow @savejimmyjohns (a fan page with links to almost every article about the fire) and @JJpipinghot (official page of the business) on Twitter. There's also a Facebook group with tons of photos of the fire and aftermath, as well as plenty of photos of Jimmy John's in operation.

Jimmy John's Piping Hot Sandwiches

*Closed pending rebuild
1507 Wilmington Pike, West Chester PA 19380 (map)
jimmyjohns1940.com
hollyeats.com/JimmyJohns.htm

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