The Sandwich Stoppe of Beaumont, one of the most popular eateries in the San Gorgonio Pass, is scheduled to open a new location at the vacant Haven Cafe in downtown Banning, the owner confirmed Wednesday.
"The rumor is true. We're opening at the Haven," Lamese "Mese" Ugapo told Banning-Beaumont Patch in a phone interview Oct. 3. "We are opening in Banning. I have the keys in hand.
"We hope to get situated there and open scheduled Nov. 12," Ugapo said. "We're going to run both locations until January at least, and see how it goes."
The decision to open in Banning had nothing to do with the August break-in at the Stoppe's current location on East 6th Street in Beaumont, Ugapo said. It had a lot to do with suggestions he received from customers.
"I was raised in Banning since age 11, and I told myself when I was 9 I would own a restaurant," Ugapo said.
"The Haven came from a Facebook post. A friend from high school, she's a civilian employee of Banning PD, she suggested it. She said like 'We wish you were closer, why don't you check out the Haven? And a lot of people chimed in, supporting the idea.
"So I checked it out," Ugapo said. "It took time, but I've worked out arrangements with the building owner and city economic development."
The Stoppe in Beaumont, next door to an ambulance location on East 6th and a few blocks from the police department and a fire station, is already popular with public safety employees.
Ugapo says he and his family are swamped these days because their Gwen Marlowe Catering business is doing so well. He and his wife Anna Marie named the business for their two oldest daughters, 3-year-old Gwen and 6-year-old Marlowe.
"Both my parents are Samoan," Ugapo said. "The men cook in Samoan culture because the island cooking can involve so many physical tasks. It's a labor of love but it's still physical."
The most popular burger at The Stoppe remains the classic American cheeseburger, Ugapo said.
"It's all about what you put in, and we use only high quality ingredients," he said.
The empty space occupied briefly by the Haven Cafe, vacant since January 2011, has been a symbol for some Banning residents of challenges facing the downtown area. When The Stoppe opens next month, it could be the beginning of a new chapter and a new image for the empty storefront.
The Stoppe is currently located at 225 E. 6th St. in Beaumont. The new location in Banning will be at 42 W. Ramsey St., across the street from Paddy O'Reilly's, just east of the Fox Theater, west of City Hall and the Banning Police Department.