From RHL to RRH
Ray takes over on East U
by David Erik Nelson
Red Hot Lovers, closed abruptly earlier this year. At the time, RHL owner Troy Slade, a 2003 U-M grad, blamed landlord Dick Johnston, who, he said, had refused to give him a multiyear lease.
Slade vowed to be back in a new location this fall. But now Ray Johnston, Dick's son, has beaten him to the punch: he's opened his own hot dog stand in RHL's old spot.
Johnston did major kitchen renovations, painted the walls, reupholstered the booths, cleaned the floors and bathroom, and hung a sign out front announcing Ray's Red Hots. Word from the counter workers is that the plan is to restore the restaurant to what it was before Slade, who lives in New York, came in with his crepe-on-a-stick dreams and management via webcam. Johnston has hired former co-owner Chris Timmann as operational manager. Ray's food is basically indistinguishable from RHL's (including the waffle cheese fries with real honest-to-god cheese) but with one change that will give hot dog connoisseurs something to chew over: Red Hot Chicago dogs instead of Viennas.
Ray's Red Hots, 629 East University. 998-3647. Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.
This item has been edited since it appeared in the October Ann Arbor Observer to reflect the comment that follows
[Originally published in October, 2009.]
On October 29, 2009, Sally Wright Day wrote:
After this story appeared in the October Observer, we heard from Dick Johnston, the landlord of the building where Ray's Red Hots is located--and father of its owner.
"I had a couple of people say, 'Gee, Dick, I didn't know you were that kind of guy,'" he said in a phone call.
"Never did I discuss any kind of lease with Troy Slade," Johnston said. "Slade quit paying, so we had to evict him." When we wrote about RHL's closing back in March, Johnston said, he hadn't wanted to comment on Slade's version because they were still in court. But he emphasized that far from forcing RHL out, he'd done his best to support it. "A couple, three years ago, we got an unsolicited offer from the developers of Zaragon Place [to buy the building]. One of the principal reasons we turned down the offer was we didn't want to put [Red Hot Lovers] out of business."