Preston - The corner of routes 2 and 2A is once again open for business.
Friends, family, customers and supporters gathered at the new Rena's Pizza of Preston Monday for the grand opening of the restaurant owned by veteran local restaurateur Rena Dorr.
The former site of the popular Preston Dairy had hosted several businesses over the years, including other restaurants and a Laundromat at one point. But then it closed, became rundown and a bank foreclosed on the property. An official from that bank called Dorr last December, knowing that she had considered buying it from the previous owner.
Dorr jumped at the chance, bought the building and did extensive renovations. Inevitable delays ensued, especially when crews from Norwich Public Utilities encountered solid rock when trying to run a new natural gas line to the business. The "coming soon" sign remained up for months longer than Dorr had hoped, but the 100-seat restaurant finally opened in late May.
She waited to celebrate to "work the kinks out," and she cut the ribbon Monday in front of a sign that already says "Yes, We're Open" and offered a free buffet to customers and guests.
Dorr owned Rena's Pizza in Norwich at two different locations for 27 years. Four years ago, her building on West Town Street was sold and demolished. She put her equipment in storage and launched a long search for a new home.
"I want to give my thanks to Rena for picking Preston and coming here," First Selectman Robert Congdon said. "… We all waited and waited. We saw her sign 'coming soon.'"
Dorr's mentor, Spero Vitouladitis, praised Dorr's work ethic and effort to make the business successful. She had worked for him at his Great Oak Pizza chain and learned to make the Greek style pizza on her menu again.
"She's the hardest working woman I've ever met," said Mike Clancy of Preston, retired former owner of Michael's Dairy in New London. He has known Dorr for 25 years and said she catered events he hosted over the years.
Dorr said her staff of 21 at the new restaurant includes many of her former restaurant staff, some Preston residents, along with her daughter, Diana Dorr and grandson, Jason Hill, 16, both of Norwich. Diana Dorr grew up in her mother's restaurants. As a small girl, she earned 2 cents each for folding pizza boxes. Later, her minimum wage pay was $3.37 per hour.
Diana Dorr served the grand opening buffet Monday.
"I'm getting more than 2 cents a box now," she said, cutting the 6-foot grinder.