Plains business, established in 1952, is now in a new location
By ALAN K. STOUT
NEPA’S BEST BUSINESSES
If you visit Torony’s Giant Hot Dogs today, a sampling of one of their legendary foot-longers probably wouldn’t taste much different than it did some 64 years ago. And that is exactly how its owners and customers like it.
The business, which is owned by Roberta Torony, Jeanne Torony and her husband, Gary Okun, was first opened by Torony’s parents, John and Eleanor, in 1952. It was originally a stop-and-go shack-style establishment, located on Highway 315 in Plains. And it quickly became one of the most popular hot dog stands in the region.
“It was the year they got married,” says Roberta. “And they were seasonal. They typically opened from the week after Easter until the last week before the first snow fall, sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. And we did that for many, many years.”
In 1997, Torony’s moved to East Main Street in Plains, not far from the side entrance to Mohegan Sun Pocono, near Eddie’s Diner. It remained there for 19 years. In May of this year, it relocated to 1325 N. River Road in Plains, inside the Tuft-Tex Complex. Roberta says shifting locations has never been a big issue for the family, especially since the hot dog business is such a big part of their lives.
“It was always kind of part of our blood and part of our culture,” she says. “We grew up with it. I can remember back, as early as maybe nine years old, we were always there. We were always family. Our earliest job was pouring soda. As time went on, it was always the four of us.”
Changes to road structures in Plains helped facilitate both the 1997 move and the more recent one. But change can have its advantages. For one, with plenty of indoor seating, Torony’s is now open year-round. And it’s busier.
“It’s rekindled a knowledge of our business,” says Roberta. “I think when we moved to East Main Street, we faded a little bit. We didn’t have that impulse stop. When we were on the highway, it was very easy. The lights would be on, the shudders would be open and the stools would be out, and that was a clear indication that we were open. Now, I’m graced with hearing a lot of stories that go back to the old shack. People will come in and say, ‘My mom and dad took us there when we were kids.’ ”
Okun, who married into the business in 1985, agrees.
“Now, we’re more centrally located,” he says. “Before, we were up on one side of Plains. Now, we’re more towards the center, and we’re closer to a lot of people on the other side of the river, so it brings a lot more people in. We’ve also regained that impulse stopper. A lot of people will see the sign and pull in.”
In addition to hot dogs, Torony’s also offers, hamburgers, sandwiches, sausages and chicken dishes. The hot dogs, which they buy from a meat-packing plant in Rochester, come with a signature taste that dates back several decades.
“We try to stay consistent,” says Roberta. “Our hot dogs have always been foot-long, and we’ve always had a hot dog with a casing. They’re not boiled or skinless. It’s a better quality hot dog. It’s pork/beef. Consistently and quality are really high on our list of priorities.”
“And the thing that really separates it is the chili,’ adds Gary. “It’s a homemade sauce that her mother developed back in the day and we keep it going. It’s the same.”
“We try to keep things as true to the original as we can,” says Roberta. “Our sausages are home made. We get the pork butts ground for us, and I do the patties myself. I season them and make them. And our fries are fresh cut. There are no preservatives at all.”
Torony’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Okun says it’s the customers that he enjoys the most about the business, adding that he likes to joke that some come into the restaurant just to chat with him. Roberta also enjoys seeing familiar faces, and new ones, come though the door.
“Our customers are like family,” she says. “You get to know them. And you get to know their extend families. They become a part of you. And so when you get to see them, and they become regulars, it’s like having a visit from a friend.”
(For more information on Torony’s Giant Hot Dogs, call (570) 822-1067. They can also be found on Facebook.)