From hot dogs to haberdasher: The singing hot dog man is back in business

- By M.L. Elrick
Fox 2 Investigative Reporter

I first met Charley Marcuse back in 1999, when we were both working as hot dog men at Tiger Stadium.

I had just moved back to Detroit for a job as obituary writer at the Detroit Free Press. In my spare time, I wanted to get behind the scenes and spend some quality time with Tiger Stadium before the home 9 abandoned the Grand Dame of Major League Baseball for the hopped up harlot we now know as Comerica Park.

Charley was a theatrically-inclined kid with a monobrow not far removed from high school. He was hawking hot dogs while he pondered his future and had recently gained some notoriety for his operatic sales pitch during the "Three Tenors" concert at Tiger Stadium. It worked and he was sticking with something it. Over the next 15 years, Charley would become arguably the best known vendor in Tiger history.

And then, it was over. The Tigers and/or Sportservice, which held the concessions contract, canned him. We're still not sure why.

Between the time we started vending and Charley's ouster, Detroit's resurgence stalled. The city became mired in the recession and an historic housing crisis, Detroit's widespread public corruption (which I helped expose) became a national punchline as the city made history as the largest in the U.S. to go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, Charley continued popping up around Detroit, a well-dressed man-about-town with what the city's French settlers might have described as "panache."

And now, with the city rising, this one-time symbol of summer is hoping to re-emerge as a symbol that the sartorial splendor that once defined Washington Boulevard has returned.

In an all-but abandoned space above St. Aloysius Church, across from the Book Tower, Charley has opened the kind of high-end men's store that you're not likely to find outside of Birmingham.

"The difference between two years ago and today is incredible," he says. "You know, in another year or two, the Book Tower here is going to be finished. There'll be a hotel, there will be retail, there will be people walking over. So I wanted to come down and be part of what I was excited about in Detroit."

Charley's shop is called Emerson's, named for the pooch who patrols the eclectic space that feels like a mix between an old time explorer's club and a smoking room. Off-the-rack suits run about $500, but Charley can make you just about any kind of custom-made get-up for as much as it costs to realize your vision. He also carries hats, ties, accessories and he does alternations.

It may seem like a gamble to open a men's specialty store tucked in the shadows thrown by Dan Gilbert and the Ilitch mega-projects, but Charley brims with confidence.

"I think Detroit is a city for everybody," he says. "It's a very big city, a very small downtown, you can find a spot anywhere somewhere within its confines. And there's so much change, it's easy to be a part of it. There's certainly a lot of big players in the downtown space, which is difficult to deal with sometimes. But overall there's, you can carve out your own little corner - still - anywhere in the city."

Contact M.L. Elrick at 248-552-5261 or ml.elrick@foxtv.com. Follow him on Facebook at "ML Elrick"; on Twitter at "elrick"; and on Instagram at "ml_elrick"

To check out earlier installments of Chapter 10, visit http://www.fox2detroit.com/chapter-10. If you dig what you see, please share it with a friend!

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