Sam's adds politics to 'save wiener' recipe
The Xiarhos brothers are still holding out hope that a Rhode Island favorite – New York System hot wieners – will still be available at the Easter State Exposition – the Big E – opening Sept. 15 in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
While Sam’s New York System that operates from a Sandy Lane plaza opposite Thayer Arena has until the end of this week to clear their belongings out of the Rhode Island exposition hall on fair grounds, Sam Xiarhos said Tuesday the family hasn’t made a move.
“Once you start [making a move], then you’ve given up,” he said.
Sam’s brother, Peter, is also using another Rhode Island favorite – political pull – in his effort to stay at the Big E. Peter said Tuesday he has been in touch with the governor’s office and talked to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Michael McCaffrey and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, both Warwick legislators. McCaffrey and Shekarchi said Wednesday they contacted the Rhode Island Department of Commerce in hopes that something could be done, but were told because Xiarhos had involved a lawyer and there was the possibility of litigation they wouldn’t be taking further action.
“Commerce wants to rotate [vendors at the exposition hall], but hopefully they can do both [wieners and beer],” said Shekarchi.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, who visited Randall Holden School yesterday, said she would check into the matter and have Commerce contact the Beacon.
Peter said he’s gotten plenty of sympathetic support, adding, “Maybe I’ll call them [McCaffrey and Shekarchi] again.”
According to Commerce, hopes of Sam’s staying in the state hall are misplaced.
Matt Sheaff, spokesman for Commerce, said Tuesday that the department inquired of Big E officials whether they could find another location for Sam’s. As for staying in the state building, Sheaff said, “There’s no more space available.”
He said the space Sam’s has occupied for five years has a water hookup that is needed in order for the Rhode Island Brewers Guild to operate. He said the guild, a non-profit organization, represents 12 to 14 Rhode Island craft brewers. In addition, he said commerce had received feedback from those attending the Big E that state breweries were not represented. He called the decision to go with the guild “strategic” and aimed at tapping into growing interest in microbreweries and locally brewed beers.
The story hit the news last month when Peter told a customer that the state would not renew his lease at the Big E. The customer in turn contacted the media about what she considered an injustice. Peter told the Beacon that commerce didn’t give him adequate notice or an explanation. He said he had invested in excess of $10,000 for the purchase of equipment and renovations to the space. He called hot wieners a part of the Rhode Island experience and that many of the visitors to the state exhibition hall have never eaten them. In addition to hot wieners, Sam’s sells coffee milk that is also a new experience to many out-of-staters.
The story that wieners were out and beer was in was picked up by a number of news outlets with the most recent report appearing in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal.
Sam said, “we were slammed” by all the attention and on a visit to the restaurant Tuesday the topic was still a source of conversation.
“I’m waiting for the governor’s office to come up with a solution,” Peter said when asked when he expects to start moving his equipment out of the hall. He said he has also put in calls to Commerce, “but they’re not responding to anybody…it doesn’t seem like they’re budging.
“There are a lot of people on our side,” he added, “I don’t understand why they can’t have both [wieners and beer.]”