Calcutta Chef Opening Restaurant in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – Ray Stephens admits he got a bit emotional speaking before the Community Improvement Corporation last week about plans to expand his popular Calcutta eatery, Chef Ray’s, to add a bar and grill in the downtown historic district.

Having grown up in LaCroft, Stephens said his family moved out of the city when he was 13, but he remembers East Liverpool as it once was and wants to be part of helping it return to those bustling days.

“It’s great. I’m really looking forward to this. It’s something the city has needed for a long time. Let’s go and take off running and get it done,” he told CIC members during finance committee and full board meetings last week, during which a loan for his new venture was approved.

For the past 20 years, Stephens has operated Chef Ray’s in Calcutta, serving a menu filled with a large variety of dinners, sandwiches, salads and more. 

Until four years ago, the business operated as carryout only from Broad Street in Calcutta, then opened on St. Clair Avenue with the addition of seating. 

With his culinary training, Stephens has been a chef for 42 years, still cooking on the line Mondays and Fridays, the busiest days for the Calcutta restaurant, where he employs about 19.

Now, his plans involve renting a former office building in Devon’s Diamond downtown, whose owners have been renovating it for several months, transforming it into Chef Ray’s Diamond Bar & Grill.

He told CIC members the new location will offer a completely different menu than Chef Ray’s in Calcutta, saying after the meeting that typical bar foods will be served, along with steaks, shrimp dishes and pastas.

The liquor license for the establishment still must be purchased, part of the reason for the $30,000 loan sought from the CIC, along with equipment, inventory, supplies, working capital and hiring employees.

Stephens surprised members by saying he expects to hire as many as 25 employees for the new business, which he hopes to open by July 1, if not earlier if things go well with obtaining the liquor license and other renovation details.

Ray Stephens, better known as Chef Ray, speaks to the Community Improvement Corporation about his plans to expand his operation to include a new bar and grill in downtown East Liverpool.

“I want to get rolling,” Stephens said, admitting, “I’m not a patient person.”

Thus far, feedback on his plans has been positive, although one relative asked him why he would want to locate his new enterprise downtown, saying, “There’s nothing down there.”

Stephens told the CIC emphatically: “I told him, ‘Why wouldn’t we? If there’s nothing to offer people, I want to be the start of that.'”

Executive Director Bill Cowan thanked Stephens for his efforts, saying, “We think you will be the catalyst for other good things to come.”

President Patrick Scafide said, laughing, “I said I’d stand on my head and spin plates on sticks to get him to come here.” 

Scafide added that the CIC is being creative with the loan agreement, which will include no interest the first year, increasing 1 percent per year until the fourth and fifth year when it will increase to 4 percent.

Mayor Greg Bricker said news of the new business has created “quite a buzz.” 

“I’m just glad that Chef Ray believes in us. We’re fulfilling our mission here, the economic drive of the city,” Bricker said.

Pictured at top: Renovation work continues on this Market Street building, which will be the location for Chef Ray’s Diamond Bar & Grill.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.