Sandwich Inventor's Repertoire Rampant When Ray's Deli opened four years ago the menu offered standard delicatessen fare plus a personalized version of the Reuben sandwich that those in the know promptly pronounced superior to the original. Then, without quite realizing what was happening, the deli's owner. Ray Max, became a sandwich inventor. The circumstances surrounding the creative process go something like this: A customer walks in and says, "Make me something different." Ray's agile fingers, programmed to flip together by rote a selection from his standard repertoire, hover briefly over the bread as he contemplates a choice. Next he considers his meat - sausage - poultry options, adds a cheese, perhaps, and mulls a gamut of garnishes that ranges from kraut to pineapple. The positioning of the top slice of bread signals a conditioned reflex ... on the grill, flip ... off the grill, split ... on the plate, serve. At this stage, however, the new sandwich remains a mere experiment. What elevates the experiment to super - sandwich status is the follow - up — the initial approval of the "something different" seeker, the onlooker who says. "Hey, I'll take one of those, too." the word - spreading that brings requests for that nameless new sandwich people are talking about. What ultimately was to become Ray's bestseller enjoyed months of growing popularity with a label no more specific than "that new sandwich." Then one day a customer took a big bite, savored the hot - off the - griddle lurkey - salami - onion melding, and sighed euphorically. "You know, this is almost Heaven." Shortly the Almost Heaven was added to the lengthening list of impromptu combinations that have gone on to become super - sandwiches. Normally a shy. modest man, Ray suddenly changes character at the mention of sandwiches, "Hi put my sandwiches up against anybody's" he states with complete confidence. "As for making up my own sandwiches, I'll tell you one thing. I never did one that wasn't later added to our menu." Inspired by the runaway popularity of the Almost Heaven, Ray recently concocted an "opposite number." called The Devil. A spicy layering of kosher frank - pastra mi - swiss - and - onion. it is his largest and most ambitious undertaking to date. But technically it has not yet made the menu. Every line of the menu — a board posted behind the counter — already is occupied by earlier creations, and The Devil is announced on a poster taped to the bottom. Ironically. Ray Max finally has invented himself right off his own sandwich menu. - ANN GRIFFITH ^^^^^^^^^ y^^^ THREE GENERATIONS OF MAXES work together to keep Ray's Deli in Kanawha City running smoothly. Foreground, from left, are Jackie. Jeffrey, Ray and Gloria. Behind them are Abe Max. who operated an East End deli for many years, and his wife. Patricia. Dedication Down At The Deli THE MEDITATING $IAX - Ray takes seriously the "invention" of a new sandwich for his menu. Although his wife thinks his Kool Blue (a bleu cheese and pastrami specialty) is his best, the Almost Heaven is his top seller. By ANN GRIFFITH Of The Lifestyles Staff On a good day Ray's Deli turns out 250 to 300 sandwiches — a major portion of them whipped together with computer - like competence by Ray Max. a slender, curly haired man with an air of intense dedication. The time of peak sandwich production is the lunch period, but Ray Max begins his day around 8. Often it is close to midnight when he calls it a day. A J5 - to - 16 - hour day. Seven days a week. Activity at Ray's Deli is well underway, however, when the owner arrives each morning at the corner of Staunton Avenue and 35th Street in Kanawha City. Ray's mother, Patricia Max, convinced that the quiet, uninterrupted early hours are the most productive, has been in the deli kitchen since 5 a.m., paring, simmering, mincing and mixing the ingredients For the day's supply of soups and salads. She also makes cheese balls, chopped liver and arranges the elaborate party platters that are a specially of the house. Ray's father. Abe Max. prepares the store's kosher meats, relying on years of experience gained at the East End delicatessen he opened when he returned from the Army in 1945 and operated until his son established the Kanawha City business four years ago Pai Crouch, the only employee who isn't also a Max, works a daily four - hour shift, beginning at mid - morning, and "is like a member of the family," according to Ray's wife Gloria, a Canadian whose penpal correspondence with Ray blossomed into romance after an exchange of visits. During the week Gloria is the "moonlighting" Max, usually coming on duty only after she completes her work day as a bookkeeper at Elk Machinery, although in a personnel crunch at the deli her sympathetic boss. John Underwood, has been known to give her time off to pinch hit at the sandwich counter during the noon rush. While Gloria, a 95 - pound wisp - of - the will, doesn't hesitate to undertake any chore from filling orders to filling salt shakers, her particular patch of expertise is carrot cakes. Working with pre - mea - sured ingredients, she beats up batter in 8 or 16 - cake batches. She calculates that in the past four years she has baked better than IB. 000 carrot cakes. "My wife works harder than any man I've ever known," Rays says admiringly. Flashing an appreciative smile at her husband, (llona shakes her head in denial and declares. "My husband is the worker. He never stops. He makes sandwiches faster than anyone. His hands just go. so quick it's unbelievable - And look at the place, how clean he keeps it." The sweep of her hand encompasses shelves of imported, kosher and gourmet specialties, rosy - topped tables (four of them recently added to bring seating capacity to 52 1, cases of meats, cheeses and salads. "Our business is our life." she says with un suppressed pride. "Our whole family is in it together. The food we eat is the food we sell. Our friends are our customers. Our children are our helpers, and we probably are with them more than many parents who got out a lot socially. "Jeffrey is only 11, but already he does what he calls the 'dirty work' — stacking chairs, cleaning tables, washing ashtrays, stocking carry - out drinks. "Our daughter Jackie is 14 and quite mature Tor her age — pleasant but serious. Wc get a lot of compliments on how efficiently she takes phone orders and she is quite proud of the way she can work the register and make change. "Our children go to school on opposite sides of town. We planned it that way because we wanted each of them to be near a parent. Jackie will be a ninth grader this fall and is head cheerleader at Lincoln Junior High. During school hours I work on the West Side near her. Jeffrey is going into the sixth grade at Kanawha City Elementary. He's just down the street from his father and during the school year comes in for lunch every day." Although Ray was associated in his father's business for 17 years, he says he didn't begin helping out at the deli until he was in high school adding apologetically. "I'm afraid when I was young. I wasn't the worker my kids are." Usually Ray's is closed only four days a year, three of them religious holidays. On the fourth — Thanksgiving — Gloria says that "someone usually takes pity on us and invites us out to dinner." This year, however. Ray's closed for one additional occasion — the day of Jackie's Bas Mitzvah. "It was a very special time for our family." Gloria says, "and it was wonderful. More than 200 of our customers came to the ceremony. I know our food is good, but 1 think one main reason people keep coming back is that we are their friends. We know their names, ask about their children. They are very special to us — after all this is our social life as well as our business." B ^ jj ^^^^^ PAGE IB FRI., AUG. 8, 1975 TYPICAL TEEN TELRPHONIT1S is routed into productive channels by the Max family. At right. Jackie. 14. takes a phone order from a carry - out customer. ':ftgg|$.' r : :' THE MOONLIGHTING MAX - Gloria, wife of the owner of Rav's Deli, holds down a full - time job as a bookkeeper by day. then takes over an evening shift at the family business. Here she prepares her specialty — carrot cakes. DAILY MAIL PHOTOS BY WILLIAM TIERNAN AT LEFT — The Matriarch of the Maxes, Patricia, displays one of her elaborate meat - and - cheese party platters. AT RIG HT — A be Max, the deli s kosher butcher, visits with Eli Weinberg, who lives in Princeton and never fail* to drop by for hot kosher corned beef on rye when he's in town.
What members have found on this page
Get access to Newspapers.com
- The largest online newspaper archive
- 18,900+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
- Millions of additional pages added every month