The arrival of summer also signals the return of transient vendors to the areas around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, Massachusetts–most visibly, Fred’s Franks, the hot dog stand at the head of the Lake. This seems like as good a time as any to review the recent history of that part of town.

When the old Lanai Island restaurant closed its doors for the final time, the town found itself at a crossroads. What would become of the area of Wakefield known as “the head of the lake?”

The town could have done nothing and continued to collect taxes on the privately owned land. Instead, the town took the land by eminent domain, after the townspeople voted to create a passive park on the location. The Friends of Lake Quannapowitt and others campaigned long and hard to convince the voters and town officials of the wisdom of taking back the land for public use. The result is the Gertrude M. Spaulding Park.
Lake Quannapowitt
Gertrude M. Spaulding Park

One of the most compelling arguments in favor of taking the land by eminent domain for passive public use was the fact that the location is a prime gateway into the town. The razing of the Lanai Island presented the town with a one-time opportunity, proponents argued, to take back one small section of a lakeshore increasingly dominated by development. Instead of a restaurant or other commercial building blocking the view of the lake, visitors and residents entering town by car would be greeted by the grand vista of Lake Quannapowitt framed by the grass, trees and open space of a public park.

It wasn’t an easy sell. But once you’ve seen the steeples of Wakefield’s downtown churches from across the length of Lake Quannapowitt, it’s hard to argue with the results. The scene is a postcard-perfect first impression of an old New England town. It is the very first thing that people see as they enter Wakefield by car from Route 128 off Exit 40.

Or rather, it was the first thing that people saw as they entered Wakefield from Route 128. Now the very first thing that people see as they enter Wakefield is a hot dog stand.
Fred's Franks

It’s easy to see why some people are upset.

Even though Fred’s Franks isn’t on the Spaulding Park (the stand is on a nearby strip of land just off the 128 rotary), it’s pretty hard to miss as you’re coming off the rotary, which I’m guessing is the whole point of the location. In fact, on, the directions to the stand read as follows: “Exit 40, off 128 in Wakefield, go around the rotary and look toward the lake.”

This wasn’t what the town’s citizens had in mind when they spent over a million bucks to acquire the land and forgo collecting taxes on a lucrative piece of lakefront property that could have included a restaurant or other business that would have attracted people and dollars to the town. And if those who would have preferred to see an eatery at the head of the lake had something in mind, I’m guessing it wasn’t Fred’s Franks.

Fred’s Franks evidently has a state hawkers and peddler’s license and may have a right to be there. The question is, does any hawker, peddler or transient vendor have a right to be in any one location ALL THE TIME?

The simple answer is no, they do not.

Here’s what Chapter 210 of the Bylaws of the Town of Wakefield says about the issue.

“Anyone who sells merchandise by going either from town to town or from place to place in the same town, either on foot or from any animal or vehicle, is acting as a hawker or peddler. No vendor has a right to a specific location.”

Lots of people would like the luxury of being able to operate a business at a rent-free, tax-free permanent location. But that’s not how things work. And if you have a hawkers and peddlers license or a transient vendor’s license, you are supposed to be just that: transient. You are not allowed to take over a piece of public land and set up shop permanently.

Lake Quannapowitt is frequently cited as Wakefield’s best feature. The townspeople decided that they wanted the town’s best feature to be showcased as the first thing that people see as they enter Wakefield from the busy 128 rotary at the head of the lake.

For whatever reason, Wakefield officials have not forced Fred’s Franks to comply with local regulations–at least not yet. As a result, owner Fred Rex has announced that he plans to open on Saturdays, and is considering expanding his hours of operation. Until recently, he was there weekdays from about 10-4. Now the stand will be open Tuesday through Saturday. How long will it be before he decides to open six days a week?

In 2006, the citizens of Wakefield authorized the town to spend another $180,000 to beautify Colonel Connelly Park at the Head of the Lake. Once that project is completed, how will locals feel about having a hot dog stand sitting in front of their investment?

Here’s hoping that some day soon town officials will use their power to enforce the law and ensure that the intentions of the citizens of Wakefield are honored.

The town’s regulations could hardly be any clearer. Any transient vendor who stakes out a piece of public property as a permanent location is breaking the law.

And that includes Fred’s Franks.

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39 Responses to “FRED’S FRANKS MUST GO”

  1. 1 hot dog fan

    go fuck yourself if you dont like a hotdog stand in your “precious” wakefield, they’re a great business with a great product and they deserve to be in a great location.

  2. 2 Mark Sardella

    1. “Go fuck yourself” is a great argument. You almost had me convinced.
    2. If Fred’s Franks is a “great business” that “deserves a great location,” then
    they also “deserve” to pay taxes and rent like your construction business and every other business.
    3. Fred’s Franks is violating the law by staying in one location permanently.

  3. 3 Ernie

    Actually, I think you are being a douchebag Mark, and I’m all the way down here in Flirida, although I used to work on Lake Quanapowitt and frequently visited Fred’s Franks for lunch.

    Dude, big picture. It’s a guy selling hot dogs. Out of a trailer attached to the back of his truck. That’s it. That’s all. He’s nice. He’s polite. He cleans up after himself and his customers. What more could you ask for?

    If you’re really this upset that he’s there, put your keyboard down, go out there one morning and set up a chair.

  4. 4 Mark Sardella

    Do you really have nothing better to do on Christmas Eve than to call me a “douchebag” in response to a three year-old blog post?
    Merry Christmas to you too, “dude.”

  5. 5 Eric B.

    Ernie, you are a fool. I own a small business in town and I have to pay taxes and rent why is it free for Fred’s and why does he get a prime location? What did you do when you worked on the lake? Did you sell slush Ernie? Come back up from the toilet bowl of America where people go to retire or to “start a new life” and open a new slush cart next to Fred with all of his Hells Angels pals. As for hot dog fan do you really think “they have a great product and a great business”? Do you own a grille? You can cook hot dogs yourself. Did you know that? Sure he’s got a great business I’m sure he’ll be going public anyday now. This town is “precious” to some of us, but not the ones who move to Florida or the one that go tell someone to fuck themselves for giving there opinion, but that’s what makes this country great you can say whatever you like. SO ERNIE AND HOT DOG FAN GO FUCK YOURSELVES! 🙂

  6. 6 hot dog fan

    Sounds like “Eric B” is jealous that he didnt come up with hot dog stand idea first. I do work in the construction industry and its nice to get a nice hot “home cooked” meal for a very reasonable price. Why cant you just mind your business and let the guy earn a buck!

  7. 7 QuannaChick

    I live in Wakefield, pay taxes in Wakefield, and can smell Fred’s Franks from my house when the wind is blowing this way.

    I agree, it is unfair for a business to operate without paying taxes. We must all contribute to the infrastructure of the community from which we gain so much.

    Is he paying the same property tax you are? No, he’s not. Why? He doesn’t OWN the property his cart is on. He must have a brick-and-mortar location where he stores his supplies, refrigerates his meat, prepares his food, and parks his trailer. His stationary location would involve rent or taxes, I’m sure. He’s paying for the right and privilege to park his trailer when he buys his vendor permit. Fred pays for his space, just differently than you pay for yours. At the end of each business day, he cleans up the area, loads everything into his trailer, and leaves, which DOES make it a “transient business”. Are you willing to pack your business and relocate it every night? Maybe you could go transient, too!

    I’m a regular at Fred’s Franks. It does not block the lake view at all – there are plenty of trees between where he sets up and the lake. The cart is attractive, and seems to fit into the lake setting. Many of the customers are people who live and/or work in Wakefield. Many of us consider him a fabulous addition to the area. Why are you so upset by this?

    The masses seem to disagree with you; he is busier each season, and has drawn the attention of more and more media. One thing I think you could enjoy about Fred’s Frank’s, Mark, is the freedom you have to NOT patronize it.

  8. 8 Mark Sardella

    Fred’s vendor permit is not equivalent to paying taxes. Owners of real restaurants must pay to obtain permits and licenses too. That would be equivalent to Fred’s peddlers license.

    You say that he doesn’t pay taxes because he doesn’t own the location. I guess that’s why he doesn’t pay rent either, like every other business that doesn’t own the location from which it operates.

    You say that he cleans up every night. He must also have substantial business related trash from food packaging and other business-related supplies. Can you tell me where he disposes of his business-related trash? Every other restaurant/commercial business has to pay for dumpster service.

  9. 9 greg

    Mark what about that honeydew donuts and the bikers? certainly they take away from the experience of the lake. You should also go after the city of Reading and Jordans furniture for ruining the view from the other side of the lake. Please keep up your rabble rousing mark! doing a swell job! Hmm, It’s lunch time and I’m hungry, guess I’ll go to fred’s franks…again!

  10. 10 Mark Sardella

    Last time I checked, Honey Dew was on private property. Fred is on public property.

    I’ll “keep up my rabble rousing” so you can comment three years after the fact.

  11. 11 Mark Sardella

    Since my last comment, “Greg” or “Peter K.” (or whatever his real name is) has decided to attack me personally, so I will not allow his comments to appear. If “Peter” or “Greg” wants to discuss issues, I’ll let him comment. If he wants to insult me, I won’t.

  12. 12 QuannaChick

    I’m sorry you were personally attacked by commenters. There is no excuse for that, and I commend you for publishing comments on both sides of the discussion!

    While I don’t know what he does with his trash, I do know he does not it in the town’s barrels. Fred does have a brick-and-mortar location, I’m sure he’s paying his “fair share” into the community for that location.

    Personally, I would not be happy to see Fred’s Franks go. His food is good, he’s a personable guy, and seems to be a value-add to the Lake Quannapowitt experience. I’m sorry for you that you don’t derive the same enjoyment from the smell of a barbeque and a good hot dog at the park that so many others seem to!

    Thanks for an interesting, and apparently controversial, opinion!

  13. 13 FredsFan

    Sorry, but Fred’s is awesome, and your blog is not.

    • 14 Mark Sardella

      Coming from someone who’s idea of “awesome” is a hot dog stand… It helps me to put your comment in perspective.

  14. 15 Bill

    I was born and raised in Wakefield, living near the head of the lake over by Four Corners. You grew up on the other side of town, didn’t you? I moved away for good in the late 80’s (my parents eventually left in ’99) but I pass through every year or two just to see how the town is looking.

    I regret to inform you that a hot dog stand is the least of Wakefield’s problems. The town today is a pretty down-at-heel, undignified place, a Malden for the new Millenium.

    The square is nothing more than a collection of nail parlors and fast food joints. Four Corners is a ruin. The schools are a disgrace (I spoke to a class at Atwell in 2009). I’ve had the sense for years that no one actually lived in Wakefield any more, but that people merely slept there between commutes. It’s a sad place, one that I hope you can some how make better.

    I know the head of the lake well. I remember the ‘swim tag’ ’round my ankle when I went to the beach, and art-and-crafts on Thursdays during the summer. I remember riding my stingray over to the Indian Trading Post to buy gimp. I remember Lowell Street after the tornado. I remember when Lanai Island was built; and I remember going there there on my first real group date to celebrate leaving Jr High for WHS. All of these things are now gone, for better or for worse.

    A hot dog stand would have been nice had it been there when I was growing up. You might consider working on cleaning-up the dump that Wakefield has become before harping about a simple street vendor.

    • 16 Mark Sardella

      Since my full name is displayed on my opinion, perhaps you’d like to identify yourself by your full name, especially given that you seem to think you know me.

      Second, I wrote the column that you commented on 3 years ago. I would hardly consider one column in three years “harping,” but I guess we have different definitions of the word.

      As you do, I fondly remember Wakefield’s glorious past – but I live in the present. I’m still in Wakefield every day, while you breeze through every two years. I don’t see Wakefield as “a sad place” as you do. You call Wakefield a “down-at-heel, undignified place, a Malden for the new Millenium.” You have been gone a long time, haven’t you?

      You call the square “nothing more than a collection of nail parlors and fast food joints.” That’s a glib description, but it’s not an accurate one. There are a number of fine restaurants in Wakefield’s business district, as well as other shops and longtime anchor stores like Hart’s Hardware and alano’s apparel store. Like nearly every other town these days, we have a few nail salons and fast food joints as well. (I believe, in fact, your friend Fred’s operation would be considered a fast food joint, no?) You seem to look down upon the largely immigrant operated “nail salons and fast food joints” in the Square. What exactly is your problem with these businesses and how would you get rid of them?

      You call the schools “a disgrace.” If you’re referring to their physical condition, that’s hardly a news flash. Perhaps you’ve heard about the economic recession that has affected municipal budgets across the country. Again, if you know how to solve these economic and budgetary crises, I’m sure you’d have eager audiences from Wakefield to Washington.

      I attend several public meetings in Wakefield per month, and see first hand how town officials are attempting to handle the issues facing Wakefield. Perhaps you’d like to offer some specific solutions, which I’m certain have never occured to anyone who actually lives and works here. I’d be happy to pass along your ideas.

  15. 17 Bob


    Bill doesn’t get it. if Fred paid his fair share in taxes the schools could be that much better. Isn’t hat’ the whole concept!?

  16. 18 Chad P. Worhl

    In light of recent events, I just wanted to reiterate “Go Fuck Yourself, Mark”

  17. 19 Mark Sardella

    I see that someone has some classy supporters.

  18. Mark, how is the slush cart on the common allow to operate without the same restrictions? I would contend it is worse than Fred’s, as the cart is operating on town property . Seems like a double standard…..

  19. 24 Mark Sardella

    Since “Ken Stein” decided not to use his real email address as required, but instead chose to spam this blog with a made up email address that itself consisted of a personal insult, all of his comments have been removed. Any future comments from “Ken” will be automatically flagged as spam, deleted and will never be seen. Apparently “Ken” shares his hero’s belief that the rules don’t apply to him.

  20. 25 Viv

    Here it is 2016 and I am reading about this hot dog stand called Fred’s Franks, I live in PA and it triggered my taste buds! One day I hope to visit it! Meanwhile the argument rather the man should be there or not, I think it is rare to find a good hot dog stand with a person that takes pride in their stand and food. Food carts are showing up everywhere now days, so why not let a hot dog stand that is loyal to your place, continue business. It would be sad to here it is no longer there. Here is to Fred’s Franks!!!

    • 26 Some Random Citizen

      Here, here, Viv! Mark’s original post was written nine years ago, and some things have changed.

      Fred, the original owner of Fred’s Franks, no longer wanted to conduct business in Wakefield. He sold the business, which is still up and running under the new owner.

      Fred’s has undergone some changes in the last few years, but is still a loved – and contentious – member of the community. The lake – still gorgeous, surrounded by parks, and unsullied by Fred’s.

      If you do ever make it up here, we’d love to have you! Bring your appetite, too. Fred’s menu now offers several types of sausages (served with grilled onions and peppers), chicken, and sometimes steak tips will sneak on as a special item. You can walk the 3 1/3 miles around the lake, or instead detour down Main Street and shop in all the little mom-and-pop stores. Frequently on weekends a festival of some type will be going on, and sometimes there’s a local band providing accompaniment from the bandstand on the common. Wakefield is a lovely little town, with a lot to offer. If you don’t love Fred’s, that’s OK! There’s so much more to Wakefield for it to ruined by one blemish (if that’s really how you have to see it.)

  21. 27 Blah Blah Blah

    Hey just in case no one has said it to you in a while… Go Fuck Yourself Douchebag!

    • 28 Mark Sardella

      Unlike you, I have the balls to put my name on my posts.

  22. 29 Anonymous Tax Payer

    Maybe you should attack the ice cream trucks next. You have an unpopular opinion, and the man does pay taxes as well as huge fees and meets town requirements.
    He’s a nice guy, and you are not. You don’t speak for people who actually enjoy the atmosphere of roadside eateries and the new trend of great food and the food truck industry. You completely ignored the fact that bikers are actually the first thing people see when they get off of that now insane rotary. The food truck is not an eyesore, but your article sure is.

  23. 30 Mark Sardella

    Dear Bridget,
    Perhaps you’d like to comment on a post more recent than 11 years and three (Fred’s Franks) owners ago?

    • 31 Anonymous Tax Payer

      Actually, no. I wouldn’t. This came up in my search for them in regards to an article on the best hot dogs places in Massachusetts, and I wanted to add them. A lot of people from Wakefield and surrounding towns that come to walk the lake appreciate their eatery.
      You’ve proven over the years that you’re not friendly, and I don’t like many of your posts. I find you incredibly immature, and vile here specifically while squelching free speech, never taking the high road, and conceited as well as opinionated.

      • 32 Anonymous Tax Payer

        Others will enjoy living their lives to the fullest without your terrorist dictatorship, please, leave people alone.

      • 33 Mark Sardella

        Thank you for your measured and rational comment on my “terrorist dictatorship.” I look forward additional sober observations from you in the future.

      • 34 bridget wilder

        The very best part about what I learned from this thread is how incredibly irrelevant you are in the viewing of the big picture. Somehow, that was worth the ticket price. Fred’s is still thriving and you remain obscure and only a legend in your own mind. That made me smile. I took a look through your recent blogs, and the lack of enthusiasm from other people toward your work is perfect poetic justice. Thanks for telling me to look.

      • 35 Mark Sardella

        You’re going to have to work harder. I have haters many times more artful than you are. Keep trying!

      • 36 Anonymous Tax Payer

        The point actually is how exactly you have haters on a hometown blog, unless you deserve them.

      • 37 Mark Sardella

        What exactly is a “hometown blog?” It’s my blog. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. But something tells me you won’t be able to stay away.

      • 38 Anonymous Tax Payer

        Still trying to flatter yourself, so predictable.

      • 39 Mark Sardella

        Thank you!

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