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Ex-football player opens eatery in Pineford; it’s a Blue Raider shrine

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/19/19

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

Scott Douglass cut his cooking teeth feeding a high school football team. Think of it as his preseason.

Now, it’s the regular season, and …

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Ex-football player opens eatery in Pineford; it’s a Blue Raider shrine

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Scott Douglass cut his cooking teeth feeding a high school football team. Think of it as his preseason.

Now, it’s the regular season, and Douglass is feeding all of Middletown.

His new restaurant which opened Oct. 17 in Pineford, Raider Steaks & Deli, is every inch — bathroom included — a shrine to all things Blue Raider.

A few weeks into his new gig, Douglass isn’t sure what’s the bigger attraction — his Philly-style cheesesteaks or the life-size Blue Raider logo painted on the wall by 2018 Middletown Area High School graduate Nick Holmes — the one everyone wants their picture taken with so Douglass can post it on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

For two of Douglass’s best customers, Ed and Connie Easter, it’s both.

Raider Steaks & Deli had only been open two weeks and the Easters had already claimed their favorite lunch table, the one next to the front window with a Blue Raider helmet on it.

Ed and Connie were one of Douglass’s first customers, stopping in about an hour after he opened that first Thursday, fittingly during Homecoming Week.

They’ve been here for lunch every Thursday since.

Connie grew up in Middletown, but it isn’t just Blue Raiders’ sentimentality that gets her in the door. You can’t eat that.

“I worked in Harrisburg for 35 years,” she said. “There was a Philly cheesesteak shop on 3rd Street. I would go up there for lunch, but I’ve never tasted or gotten the quality of food and the quantity of food that you get here. I was shocked when we got our first sandwich.”

After fulfilling their weekly lunchtime ritual, the Easters posed in front of the big logo on the wall for Douglass and his camera.

The Raider Steaks & Deli menu is big on the basics — cheesesteaks, sliders and grill fare, sausages and hot dogs, homemade macaroni and cheese, deli sandwiches and treats such as ice cream and snow cones.

Besides celebrating the Blue and Gold, Douglass said his cheesesteaks set him apart from other restaurants in Middletown.

Every three days, Douglass gets delivered 180 rolls from Amoroso’s in Philadelphia, the same rolls that Douglass said are used to make those to-die-for Philly cheesesteaks.

“The rolls gotta hold up. You gotta be able to order a cheesesteak, put it in your car, drive out to Lower Swatara, get in your house and it’s still gotta hold, and that’s what the rolls do,” Douglass said. “Any other type of roll you use just doesn’t hold up.”

Douglass is, of course, a Blue Raider.

He played football for Dennis Iezzi before graduating from Middletown Area High School in 1991. He then played football at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

He has deep Middletown roots. His grandfather on his mother’s side, Scott Brandt, was the burgess of Middletown and became the town’s first mayor, when the position was changed from burgess to mayor while Brandt was in office.

His father, William Douglass, was born and raised in Pineford. Scott can point out the window of his restaurant to the spot 200 yards away where his dad grew up, although the house is no longer there.

Bill Douglass helped build the bridge that carried the first trucks onto Three Mile Island, Douglass said. His father worked at TMI for 35 years. They never left during the accident in 1979, even though Scott said his mother kept pleading with Bill Douglass to take the kids to Pittsburgh.

“He said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because the Air National Guard is walking down Main Street in gas masks, and your kids are on swings in the backyard,’” Douglass said.

Douglass after leaving IUP spent his career handling advertising in publications for the Catholic church. Print-based advertising had been on the decline for years and when the scandals involving priests and children started becoming public, Douglass could see the writing on the wall.

“I likened it to working for the Second Mile foundation when the Sandusky thing was going on,” Douglass said. “No one was giving you money. No one was doing stuff … no one wanted to be associated with what was happening in the Catholic church.”

His company was planning to close the office he worked in in New Cumberland. He could keep his job but only by transferring to Michigan.

When his son Brendan, a 2018 graduate, played football Douglass would have almost the entire Blue Raider team over for a meal every Thursday night. It was the proving ground for his macaroni and cheese, steak sandwiches and burgers and sliders.

“They would always be like ‘Mr. Douglass, you should open a place,’” he said. “I don’t think it’s hard to feed high school kids — you can pretty much give them anything and they think it’s good — but they were always like, you should open a place.”

Earlier in his career, Douglass had worked in the personal lending field where he developed a good understanding for numbers and business plans. With his career on the ropes, he started looking for a place in Middletown to open his restaurant.

The Pineford location had been home to other eateries in the past, most recently One Love Cafe which opened in early 2017.

Douglass said the cafe only offered take-out. He’s hoping the additional investment he’s made in providing indoor seating for 28 people will enable him to succeed, where others have not. He’ll have seating for another 24 outside.

Raider Steaks & Deli is surrounded by Pineford with its 782 units, 98 percent of which are occupied, Douglass said.

The outdoor swimming pool that serves Pineford is right next door but has just one concession stand, which Douglass sees as another opportunity when the warm weather begins to roll around. He plans to add an outdoor window to serve up milk shakes, ice cream, snow cones and the like.

Things are going pretty well so far, Douglass said. He sold 973 cheesesteaks in his first two weeks. He plans to gradually expand his menu by adding baked goods and other items.

Ed and Connie are still happy. Connie said that at first, Ed said Douglass was only piling on the meat because he’d just opened. He’d cut back later on.

Hasn’t happened, Connie said. “There’s so much meat in those sandwiches that when you bite into it, it falls right out.”

“In a good way,” Douglass chimed in.