In Memoriam: Sydney Simon, owner of Original Hot Dog Shop

By Michael Macagnone

Sydney Simon devoted his life’s work to his family and his restaurant, The Original Hot Dog… Sydney Simon devoted his life’s work to his family and his restaurant, The Original Hot Dog Shop, on Forbes Avenue. ‘He was a very hard worker, a great friend, boss, husband and father,’ said his daughter, Terry Campasano. ‘The Original is my dad. It was his dream.’ On Monday, The Original Hot Dog Shop closed its doors for the day to honor the loss of its founder and owner, 80-year-old Simon, who died Saturday after a 20-year battle with melanoma, according to his daughter. ‘He never gave up,’ said Campasano. ‘They gave him a 1 percent survival chance, and he fought his hardest.’ The entire staff left the shop on Monday to attend Simon’s funeral service at Ralph Schugar Chapel in Shadyside ‘mdash; everyone, that is, except for John Torvazmik, a prep cook who stayed to watch over Simon’s shop. The only other time the shop closed, Campasano said, was when Simon’s wife, Esther Simon, died. Simon opened the Original Hot Dog Shop on Forbes in 1960. ‘It was his dream to have the restaurant,’ said Campasano. ‘He saw the location at Forbes Field, and it was his dream to have it there. [He] started out with a cigar box as a register.’ Simon worked hard to keep the shop afloat, said Campasano. He almost closed it a few years ago. ‘We were all exhausted. It’s a hard business, but we snapped out of it in a New York minute,’ said Campasano. ‘It didn’t close, and it’s not going to.’ Nothing could deter Simon from keeping his dream going, said Campasano. ‘He just loved people. I think that’s why he got into the business,’ said Campasano. ‘He loved everyone, from all walks of life.’ One of Simon’s crowning achievements, Campasano said, was successfully helping his friend Nathan Keyes get a liver transplant. Keyes said doctors told him he would only live nine months if he didn’t have a liver transplant, and the waiting list was 18 months long. Not wanting to let his friend sit on the list and wait, Simon worked tirelessly to find’ ‘ Keyes a new liver, said Campasano. Simon wrote a letter to the White House requesting President George W. Bush’s assistance, according to Keyes. ‘He was a hell of a friend and a great man,’ said Keyes. Keyes, who attended Simon’s service Monday night, received the transplant in March 2004. Keyes worked for Simon at the Original since Thanksgiving 1986. ‘ ‘ ‘ The two were close friends. ‘ ‘He was great to me,’ said Keyes.