Redemption in hot dogs
Two years sober, Carol Stream man opens small business
CAROL STREAM – Will Amarantos, owner of Will’s Hot Dog Palace in Carol Stream, has no problem serving up a side of encouragement, at no extra charge, for anyone who requests it.
Amarantos, 24, who has worked in the hot dog business since age 13, doesn’t take anything for granted and always willing to share his story.
“I’m an open book,” he said. “I dibble-dabbled in most everything, including alcohol and drugs.”
His past life included addiction and began when he started drinking at age 11.
But he doesn’t blame his struggles on his family.
Amarantos said he had an extremely happy childhood. His problems began when he got involved with the wrong people.
However, he has been sober for the past 2 1/2 years, taking his recovery one day at a time and building a successful business. He opened the store last December as a gift to himself after two years of sobriety.
“We are very proud of all his accomplishments,” said Penny Amarantos, Will’s mother. “There aren’t many 24-year-olds who can cross over the hurdle he has and open a store. He’s been through a lot and it is remarkable.”
Now Penny and Will’s father, Greg, often can be found helping at the store.
Will said his is a unique atmosphere for a hot dog stand, featuring friendly service and offering the best and freshest products. In addition to hot dogs, the menu also features hamburgers, beef, hand-cut fries and more.
“I prepare in small quantities several times a day,” he said.
Although Will previously attended college, he admits to being “just plain miserable.” He especially was concerned that his efforts were futile because he thought his arrest record would prevent him from landing a job in his preferred fields of teaching, counseling and recreation.
But he never gave up on the idea of working in the food industry. He contacted Vienna Beef and opened his own hot dog business, regardless of warnings from his late grandfather, Tom Amarantos, who opened a Chicago hot dog stand in the 1970s. Tom didn’t want his grandson to work in an industry where success required long hours and sacrifices.
“In my family, you are either a doctor or own a restaurant,” Will said. “It’s in my blood to be in this business.”
And now, photos of his late grandfathers are displayed at his store at 383 N. Gary Ave.
“I like to think they are looking over me and incredibly proud,” he said.
In addition to acknowledging his tight-knit Greek Orthodox family for his success and for giving him the strength to keep on the right path, he recognizes his faith, despite being a nonbeliever in his younger years.
Will especially made a point of crediting God for the surprise outcome of a court appearance for trouble he got into before his recovery.
Not knowing where he would get the strength to handle the situation, Will consulted his spiritual adviser.
His friend’s advice? “Let God walk through first into the courtroom.”
When his court date arrived, Will opened the courtroom doors and said outloud “You can walk in first.”
And to Will’s amazement, the judge told him all the evidence was lost and all charges were dropped. All he had to do was serve probation.
Will closes his store at 7 p.m. each day so he can attend spiritually based recovery group meetings. The store also is closed Sundays for worship and family time.
Grateful for his second chance, Will only hires sober convicted felons.
“I was given this gift to be sober and a second chance, so who am I not to give this to others?” he said. “I am very grateful.”