Virginia explains that it was a difficult time, but the restaurant's troubles didn't end there. In the 80s, the construction of the Metro's Green Line closed every store on the street.
Ben's stayed open, though, fighting through the boarded up buildings and thin customer base. They survived by employing one person at that time and eventually catering to the construction workers.
Mean something to the city
On the restaurant's 40th anniversary, Virginia and her husband were in Trinidad when their son called them and told them they were going to host a small celebration.
He later called them back, urging them to return to the United States because the party was going to be "a little bigger" than he had planned. When Virginia and her husband arrived, they were blown away by the sheer amount of television crews and people who had shown up in support.
"What was really profound for me was that people came from this city, from this community, and stood in line for hours just to come in and buy a hotdog," says Virginia.
"I just felt, wow, this is Washington, this is our community. Maybe we really mean something to this neighborhood. Maybe we really mean something to the folks of this city."