So where was the cool place to hang out during my high school days? It didn’t have a drive through window. But what it did have was an atmosphere that drew people young and old to downtown.
Lou and Helen DeLuca opened R & M Sandwich Shop in Canton in 1972. They opened it with the help of their children Ray, Donna, and Mike. It first opened on Academy Street until moving to its present location on Main Street.
If you’re from around here, R & M is referred to as the Hoagie Shop. They make real hoagies, unlike the chain sandwich shops.
The DeLucas are more than business owners in Canton. They are friends to the city and all that enter their quaint establishment.
Before I was old enough to drive, Alan Johnson and I would spend the morning playing golf at Canton Golf Club. After golf, we would walk from there to eat at the Hoagie Shop. We would then walk back to the golf club. We were younger then.
During my high school years in the late ’70s, the Hoagie Shop was the new cool hangout; a title that was once held by the Burger Chief. Students would flock there at any given chance.
Mike DeLuca was actually the closest to me in age. For years, Mike drove a van with some cool painting on it. Everyone in town knew his vehicle and many were envious of his ride.
On Senior Day at Cherokee High School, Mike would load his van with steak hoagies and bring them to the school for the seniors. Being a few years older than us, we viewed Mike as a very cool guy with a cool ride. And he really wasn’t from around here which added to the coolness.
R & M then became home for government employees who could simply walk across the street for lunch. I am satisfied that many plea bargains, divorces, settlements and other court cases have been settled right there on the premises. Because on any given day, the shop is full of judges, lawyers, public safety personnel, jurors, and people from all other walks of life.
There is no doubt R & M was impacted when many of the government employees moved to the Bluffs. But they have carried on with lines running out of the door on many days.
Donna and Jamie, Mike’s wife, pretty much run the shop now with the help of their longtime dedicated employees. Ray and Mike have gone into many business ventures and found success in other areas.
In an ever changing economy, the shop has been in business for 41 years. The biggest reason besides the good food is the fact that they get to know their customers.
If you have been there more than a couple of times you know what I mean. Most times you hear, “Do you want the usual?”
I hear a lot of talk about Main Street wanting to revitalize. And I have read many suggestions for making this happen. But as a lifelong resident, it would appear to me that the best place to start would be to continue supporting folks like the DeLucas that have added a touch of spice to the downtown area.
Yes, there are other eateries downtown. And there are good ones. But Lou and Helen had a vision years ago that turned into a legacy for the city of Canton.
I had the privilege not long ago to sit down and talk with Mike. We talked about the old times. And we talked about the new. Like most of us, he’s grown up from that cool guy that drove the van.
He talked about his family moving to Canton years ago as outsiders. But more importantly, he talked about his love for the city he and his family now calls home.
The Burger Chief had its day and eventually closed its doors. But R & M has managed to maintain throughout four decades. It was started by a family of outsiders.
But those outsiders will forever be remembered as one of Canton’s best families. And well deserved.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of