The Many Hats of Richard Pink
Much like the hot dogs sold at the famous stand bearing his name, there are many varieties of Richard Pink.
Some know him as the co-owner of Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs. Others know him as the West Coast managing director of Clarion Partners, a real estate investment management company. Pink wears many hats, and that’s by design. Early in his career, he saw the value of life experience. And he has been relishing it ever since.
A desire to learn a variety of skills and trades began when he was a young law student at Loyola. While his interest in law ran deep, a career in business also attracted him, so he enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Southern California and juggled classes at both schools.
As if two advanced degrees weren’t enough, his mother urged him to quit working at Pink’s and start selling real estate. “I told my mother, ‘But I’m only 19,’ and she replied, ‘If you put on a suit, no one will know.’” So he earned his real estate license and started selling homes. After passing the bar exam, he encapsulated his dual passions for business and law in one job: general counsel for a real estate development firm.
“I wanted to know everything about the real estate business that I knew would become my career: development, investment, lending, law and brokerage.” He credits his “diversified background” as one of the main factors to his success today.
Later, he took on property management and learned how to turn around foreclosed commercial real estate, in particular a shopping mall with 120 tenants. His job gave him insights into how to succeed in retail—a skill that would help him later with his eponymous hot dog establishment. “If you want to learn things, work on something that is difficult and troubled,” he said.
Always looming in the back of his mind was the fate of his parents’ hot dog stand, Pink’s, which opened on North La Brea Avenue in 1939. In the 1980s, his parents asked his wife, Gloria, to run the business. At that time, Pink’s only offered three hot dogs. Pink decided that if he was going to take on the hot dog stand some big changes had to be made.
The transformation of Pink’s from a locals-only stand to a household name was the “Chili Dogs for Charity” promotion for its 59th year in business. The stand sold hot dogs for 59 cents for 59 minutes from November 5-9, and each night a celebrity served hot dogs or signed autographs. To top it off they gave 100 percent of the proceeds to a charity of the celebrity’s choice. Local TV and radio stations heard about the historic stand and created city-wide buzz on the event.
But for Pink’s, lasting success had to be more than a gimmick. “These things were critical to the experience and success of Pinks: the food and service had to be good, the employees had to be happy, and the atmosphere had to be original,” he said. In the process, Pink’s became a media and celebrity favorite. Customers often line up for an hour or more with the hope that a celebrity might stop by for their favorite hot dog.
The Pink’s menu has grown considerably from three to 35 hot dogs. They are named in homage to Hollywood movies, L.A. landmarks and celebrity fans of Pink’s: The Lord of the Rings Dog, TODAY Show Dog, Mulholland Drive Dog, and the Patt Morrison Baja Veggie Dog are just some of a wide selection of choices.
It was always important to keep the family involved in the process. Co-owners Richard Pink, Gloria Pink and Beverly Pink-Wolfe decided to license Pink’s and expand to eight different locations: Cedar Point
Amusement Park in Ohio, Los Angeles International Airport, Planet Hollywood Hotel in Las Vegas and the L.A. County Fair, to name a few. “That’s where my legal background came in: I’m comfortable with negotiating licensing agreements,” he said.
Pink traces much of his success back to the skills he learned as a law student. “All the professors that drilled me on critical thinking and analytical thinking were invaluable,” he said. “They taught me to see the pros and cons of everything because as a lawyer and businessman you’ve got to know how to see both sides. I came away from Loyola Law School with a deep respect for the legal training I received, and it inspired me to obtain some life experience.”