Must try sandwiches

Beloved deli owners have retired, business has a new owner

The owners of a popular Dayton sandwich shop have hung up their spatulas and soup ladles. 

Rodney “Rod” Vangas said he and his wife, Becky, retired and sold Charlie’s Deli and Catering to Chris Raney of Dayton and his mother, Pat Jones of Beavercreek. 

“I’ve been doing this for 42 years. I want to retire. I am 63 years old,” Rodney said. “I don’t want to work anymore. My wife and I work six days a week. We are just worn out.”

He said he is leaving the business his father — the restaurant’s namesake Charlie Vangas — started in 1964 in good hands. 

The sale of the restaurant located at 429 Troy St. in Dayton was finalized Monday, April 2. 

The Reuben sandwich from Charlie’s Deli and Catering made with corned beef, swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing, Woeber horseradish mustard and sauerkraut, toasted and melted on rye bread. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ALEXIS LARSEN

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Rod’s official retirement day was March 30, but he said he intends to consult Raney on Charlie’s.

“My wife and I are going to give these people our hard-earned recipes,” he said.

Those recipes include Rod’s sandwich creations, Becky’s soups and the 100-year-old cabbage roll recipe passed from Rod’s grandmother to his mother and down to Becky. 

Charlie’s Deli and Catering on Troy Street in Dayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ALEXIS LARSEN

Raney, the former proprietor of Chris Cafe at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said he is excited to continue and add to Charlie’s legacy in North Dayton.  

“These are big shoes to fill and I plan on filling them,” he said. “The people love to come to Charlie’s because they love Charlie’s.  I want them to continue to come.”

Raney, a 1992 Stebbins High School graduate, said he plans to keep Charlie’s menu and add a few sandwiches of his own creation. 

Four people, including the Vangases, currently work at Charlie’s.

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Raney expects that number to remain the same.  

Eventually he said he hopes to add a full-service, sit-down breakfast. 

Married 36 years, the Vangases have barely taken any vacations due to their dedication to running Charlie’s.

Rodney said that is about to change.

“We’ve always worried about our kid and then we’ve always worried about our customers. Now it’s time to worry about us,” he said. 

Trips to visit their youngest son Craig in Atlanta are in the cards as are trips to visit Wichita, Kansas, to see Rodney’s brother and to St. Louis to visit Becky’s sister. 

The couple will be taking their grandkids to Monacan State Park and visiting a niece in Denver and a nephew in Raleigh, N.C. 

Rodney, a food lover, is particularly excited to visit a niece in Manhattan. He’s never had a chance to go. 

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“We’ve never been able to travel and visit anyone. They have always come here,” he said. “I can’t wait.” 

Rodney, the youngest of five siblings, bought Charlie’s from his father in 1982. 

He left behind his studies at Ohio State University 42 years ago when his dad became ill and said he needed help running the store. 

“I just stayed here,” he said. “I liked it.”

He and Becky started transforming Charlie’s into a deli and catering businesses in the early 1980s. 

Over the years, Charlie’s has won praise by the local media — the “Dayton Daily News” and Dayton.com included — and its loyal customers. 

Charlie’s won third place for Best Deli in the 2017 Best of Dayton people’s choice contest.

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“It is incredibly satisfying when people say ‘that was the best sandwich I have ever had’,” Rodney said. “Things like that just keep your passion going.” 

He recalled the day a customer cried after hearing a rumor that the deli was closing. 

Charlie's Deli take on a Cuban sandwich
Photo: Photo: Amelia Robinson

 Rodney said running a “mom and pop”  has required him and his wife to come in when they have been sick and “work hardest during holidays when everyone else is having fun.” 

He said he never wanted his sons to work in the deli. Instead, Rodney said he encouraged them to complete college and have professional careers. 

Chris Vangas, a Columbus resident, is a teacher and coach at Saint Mary School in German Village. 

Craig Vangas is a trade analyst in Atlanta, his father said. 

Rodney said he will miss Charlie’s. 

“It is kind of bittersweet that we are leaving, but we want to do things we’ve never done before like taking a vacation,” Rodney said. 

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