Ray Trevelline is a man who doesn't keep score of his own accomplishments. Perhaps most widely thought of as the Hot Dog Shoppe owner, he isn't even sure what year it opened. "About 1963?" he guesses.
The facts and figures of its history may be debatable, but its ongoing success is not. The HDS moved to its present location around 1975 and is going strong today. He is also involved with the Hot Dog Shoppes in Warren and Hubbard and in Girard, where he lives with his wife, Kathleen. His two sons, John and Joseph, also live in Girard, and his daughter, Catherine, lives in Geneva, Switzerland.
Born in the small town of Boyers, Pa., to Louis and Amelia Trevelline, Ray was one of five sons who had a very modest upbringing. His father was a miner, and they had no inside plumbing.
He was graduated from Grove City High School and continued his education at the University of Dayton, where in 1961 he received a degree in engineering. Having served in the ROTC, he was compelled for two years of service as an officer, and ended up as a captain in the Army Reserve, stationed in Korea.
He sums up his time in the military as a "fantastic experience" where he "found a home and a lot of challenge." And although he worked hard to earn his engineering degree in college, he seems much more proud his "country degree" and the "respect authority degree" he received from his father.
When he got out of the military, he and a brother took over a frozen custard stand as a summer job, and he found that he really enjoyed food service, leading him to pursue that as his career. In fact, all five of the Trevelline brothers eventually wound up in the sandwich shop business.
While most locals would readily proclaim Trevelline as a wise and established businessman, the only title he bestows on himself is "pea picker," an obvious understatement. "I'm gratified doing simple things," he says. "I love manual labor."
That may be the key to his success, along with the fact that he is truly interested in people and is enthralled by the tales of the folks he has met through the years, customers and employees alike. "I've heard the most inspiring stories over the counter," he says. If you just listen, he explains, you will find that "there are always interesting things happening to interesting people."
He also loves teenagers and proclaims them his "specialty." He clearly is most proud of having taught so many area young people how to work. A position at the Hot Dog Shoppe was a first job for many of them, and he made it his mission, he explains, to be sure that they weren't there to learn how to get a paycheck but rather how to do a good job, how to be a dedicated employee not afraid of hard work.
What he is most sure of is that he fell in love instantly with the City of East Liverpool, becoming fascinated with its history and geography. "It's all the alley homes, the pottery industry, the handcrafted items, the river lore. It just really attracted me," he explains. "From day one, I absolutely loved it." His fascination extends to the railroad industry, and he estimates he has canoed down Beaver Creek "probably 100 times."
About 10 years ago, at the urging of another local businessman, Trevelline bought the history-filled Traveler's Hotel, guiding it to its current state of renovation. Presently, the Crockery City Café is operating from the building, and its décor warmly embraces the richness of the area's past.
Ray's affable smile is a fixture in the Fourth Street area between the Hot Dog Shoppe and the Traveler's Hotel, and those who can get him to stand still long enough will benefit from his pearls of wisdom. "Prayer works," he says, dispensing a pearl. "I knew that as a child, and I know that as an adult."
Trevelline has a faith in East Liverpool that cannot be rivaled, and he says he truly believes the downtown is "approaching stability." To that end, there's nowhere else he'd rather be. "I belong in East Liverpool," he states, "because when I came here, I felt like I truly fit in."