HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – Red Hots Coney Island made it through the Great Depression, a World War and the closure of the Ford Plant in Highland Park but now it’s closing down.
Red Hots near Woodward Avenue and the Davison Freeway couldn’t survive the COVID pandemic. Generations of the Harlan family ran the coney island and their regular customers became much more than just customers.
The owners, Rich and Carole Harlan, said people would walk in strangers and walk out as family. For a century, the business has been serving up signature coney dogs and chili.
“Original recipe since 1921. Rich still makes it in house,” Carole Harlan said.
Rich Harlan’s great uncle Tom started the family business shortly after World War I. Rich Harlan started working there in the 60s as a dishwasher.
“When I first started here there was no women working here it was strictly men,” Rich Harlan said. “The place was half the size it is now.”
Back then, the restaurant was open 24/7 and didn’t need to lock the doors. Most of their regulars worked at the Ford Plant, which was a half a block away.
In its 100 years in business, the restaurant only closed once. During the COVID pandemic. They offered carryout and even started delivering frozen blocks of their famous chili. But the Highland Park landmark is now closing.
For their next chapter, Rich Harlan and his daughter, Christina, are going to sell their Red Hots Chili Sauce to restaurants and grocery stores.
Hots will be closing their doors at the end of July. They’re hosting a 100th birthday party on June 26 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
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