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Change in Ownership for Tampa’s Beloved Mel’s Hot Dogs

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Change in Ownership for Tampa's Beloved Mel's Hot Dogs

Following half a century, Mel is no longer found behind the counter at Mel’s Hot Dogs.

Mel Lohn, the founder of the beloved hot dog establishment located at 4136 E Busch Blvd, originally opened its doors on July 3, 1973. Recently, he put the business up for sale, expressing his desire to find someone willing to continue his enduring legacy.

“I wouldn’t sell it to someone who’s going to change it,” said the 76-year-old Lohn to WTVT. “Where am I gonna go for a hot dog?”

While the complete specifics of the sale remain undisclosed, Hillsborough County records indicate that HD Holding Company LLC acquired the property for $435,000 on September 7.

The LLC is composed of Mark, Doug, and Stephen Szabo, who are longtime residents of Temple Terrace, as reported by the Tampa Beacon.

“We knew there were some contingencies … and he wanted someone who wasn’t going to come in and change everything,” said Mark Szabo to the publication. “And I think we hit it off pretty quickly. He liked our story, you know, he trusted us, I think, that we wouldn’t do any of those things.”

Michael Braccia from Bay Street Commercial, who served as the listing agent, revealed to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that Mel and his wife, Virginia, received more than 250 serious inquiries regarding the business. However, the Szabo brothers were deemed a perfect fit for the transition.

While the iconic hot dogs will likely remain unchanged, a representative from Mel’s shared with CL that a few minor adjustments are in the pipeline. These include an expanded beer menu, the addition of ice cream options, and revised operating hours that now include Sundays.

Renowned for its Chicago-style hot dogs, hot Italian beef sandwiches, and the adorned walls featuring people from around the world sporting “Sit. Stay. Good Dog.” t-shirts, Mel’s has held a cherished place in the hearts of Tampa residents, as well as those visiting or departing from nearby Busch Gardens, spanning generations.

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