Hot Dog Shoppe serves up a bun full of memories

I was all set to write a column about the unabashedly adorable topic of Internet animals, inspired by the story about famous cat superstars, seen above. Besides the challenge of coming up with Lolcat-level punnage, this topic was put on hold after hearing about the death of one of Warren’s most beloved businessmen and a founding father of one of its crowning jewels: The Hot Dog Shoppe.

Paul Trevelline co-founded the mainstay eatery shortly after returning home from World War II. The place was initially a sandwich-and-knickknack joint, but they soon eschewed the knickknacks in favor of food. It became the legendary Hot Dog Shoppe, whose blue roof with the rotating hot dog on top graced our downtown not unlike a delicious Eiffel Tower.

Trevelline and his partner worked hard to keep the Shoppe (don’t forget the “e” – ever) open and thriving for rest of the century and into the next. His hard work did not go unnoticed, as his peers were full of praise of Trevelline and his philanthropic ways. He not only helped provide generations of Warrenites with jobs, guidance (via inspirational quotes on the sign outside) and delicious hot dogs, but he also donated a great deal to local causes.

It was nice to see how so many Valley residents united to appreciate the man, and how a simple hot dog joint was such a big part of their lives. On the Tribune website, commenters told stories about working at the restaurant as a teenager, or dining there with family and friends.

My grandmother lived nearby, and we would often go there for lunch – even way back when the Islay’s building was still across the street. I liked to sit at the counter with the spinning chairs as opposed to a booth.

I remember vividly the painting of the man praying to the hot dog, not knowing it was a parody of a real painting. I wondered why the version in my grandmother’s living room had a loaf of bread instead of a hot dog.

When my dad would bring home HDS for dinner, there was always a tumult as the hot dog orders were sorted out onto separate paper plates. As a picky kid, I would get plain with ketchup. I would eventually learn that chili is the condiment of the gods.

The family fry would be doled out to me, my mom and my brother, and Dad would cart off the remainder of the fries in the takeout box for himself. He would always forget to remove at least one of the little salt packets they throw in the box – I wonder if any of us ever accidentally swallowed one.

I also recall in high school the news of the great Hot Dog Shoppe fire spreading through the halls of Warren G. Harding until fourth period, during biology, someone actually came into the room to say the Hot Dog Shoppe was on fire.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if they sent us all home for the day so we could spend the afternoon smelling downtown in mourning. After it was repaired, I taped a postcard touting the reopening in my locker.

Of course, coming with any discussion about the HDS are everyone’s preferred hot dog orders – I prefer chili and cheese myself. Others like kraut or onions. The family fry MUST have sauce, in my opinion, but sometimes I am in the mood to add cheese.

I posted a picture of the HDS on Facebook after I heard about Trevelline’s death, and everyone began commenting with their hot dog preferences. Local natives who now live out of town expressed their desire for teleportation for the sole purpose of smashing a half dozen.

There was even an argument that has been known to divide Warrenites and non-Warrenites – the Hot Dog Shoppe vs. Jib Jab debate.

People from Girard and Mahoning County are Jib Jab devotees, while I had never visited the Hot Dog Shoppe offshoot until I moved to Youngstown in 2004. Apparently, the sauce is the same, but somehow it tastes different to me. They have no rotating hot dog on top. Perhaps the rotating hot dog powers some sort of chili oven and makes a difference in the taste that only Warrenites can notice.

I’m all for making delicious dogs available across county lines, but I’ll always be loyal to the original location.

So next time you’re in downtown Warren, or when you come home to visit, stop by the HDS, because seven days without a hot dog makes one weak.

What do you get on your hot dog? Share your Hot Dog Shoppe memories with me at, or comment on this story at