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New London - Darrel Hanrahan and Collin Reiners had been talking about opening a place for years.
Stash's Café, once a Pequot Avenue hot spot, was plenty closed.
It was as if the stars had aligned.
"We'd been looking all over Connecticut when this became available," Hanrahan, a 30-year-old East Hartford firefighter, said Thursday. "It was just what we wanted - to be near the shore."
Hanrahan and Reiners, an optometrist whose office is in Holyoke, Mass., plan to re-open Stash's as The Branding Iron in May, promising "barbecue, bourbon and beer," or, more precisely, a "family-friendly" restaurant serving up steaks, burgers and salads as well as live music, DJs and, on Sundays, screens tuned to DirecTV's NFL coverage.
Pool tables and darts will also be featured.
"We're going to do it all," said Miranda Bergeron, 31, who along with Ryan Van Lew will manage the place.
Reiners said the emphasis will be more on the restaurant aspect of things than the bar. The Branding Iron hopes to cater to the luncheon crowd from the Electric Boat campus across Pequot Avenue and to "everyone else, too," he said.
Hanrahan and Reiners, who met as members of the Connecticut Air National Guard, are leasing the space from the property's long-time owner, Steve "Stash" Schiavone.
The business' new co-owners, Bergeron and some other employees were hard at work Thursday inside the restaurant, where they were well into the second week of a massive renovation. Flooring and ceiling panels had been removed and walls repainted. The kitchen is being redone and new tables, booths and patio furniture are on the way.
Hanrahan said they were talking to local vendors about supplying the restaurant.
Hanrahan works two 24-hour shifts a week as a firefighter in East Hartford but lives in southeastern Connecticut. He worked for 12 years at the Andrea Hotel in Misquamicut, doing "a little of everything, including bartending."
"I've been coming down here for 20, 22 years," he said. "I always loved Ocean Beach. New London was always a great place to hang out."
Reiners, the Connecticut Air National Guard's chief of optometry, said he will keep his practice in Massachusetts. He lives in the Berkshires, as does Bergeron, who said she has 15 years of restaurant experience.
This is Reiners' first foray into the business.
"I talked him into it," Hanrahan said.
Ahead, lies an adventure, the new co-owners agreed. And for the former Stash's, "a clean, fresh start."