Brian Stephens, co-owner of Tandy’s Top Shelf, dies in Vermont

  • Brian Stephens, 53, co-owner of Tandy’s Pub in Concord, was found dead outside his car along a roadway in Vermont. Police do not suspect foul play. Courtesy of Karen Bachelder

  • Brian Stephens, 53, co-owner of Tandy’s Pub in Concord, was found dead outside his car along a roadway in Vermont. Police do not suspect foul play. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 12/26/2019 6:33:48 PM

Brian Stephens, the 53-year-old co-owner of Tandy’s Top Shelf, a popular dance club and restaurant in Eagle Square, was found dead outside his car on Sunday in his home state of Vermont in what police think was an accident.

Vermont State Police issued a statement that said Stephens was found dead in Thetford, on the side of Route 5. His car was badly burned. The cause of death remained under investigation by press time, but police said they don’t believe the public is in danger.

Law enforcement officials did not return phone calls seeking further information. But Stephens’s husband, Scott Graham, was allowed to visit the accident scene to identify the body for police, he told the Monitor on Thursday night. He said investigators theorized that Stephens drove off the road and got stuck in a wooded area.

He then might have spun his tires trying to free himself, but the hard friction caused the tires to catch fire, which quickly spread to the car, Graham said he was told by police.

Adam Silverman, the public information officer for the Vermont State Police, said he had no details “beyond the initial news release. However, we will have an update to share.”

Stephens co-owned Tandy’s with Greg Tandy, while Graham said he served as a business advisor and also installed various types of electronic equipment.

He and Stephens fell in love 31 years ago and later married. They lived in Fairlee, Vt., where Stephens established a farm for rescued animals.

“Brian loved animals,” Graham said by phone.

He described his husband as a typical New Englander, stoic, quiet and frugal. “We’d talk on the phone and he didn’t have a lot to say,” Graham said. “He was the stereotypical New Englander.”

Their home in Fairlee is about 85 miles from Concord, but Stephens’s presence was palpable at Tandy’s on a regular basis, according to former Concord businessman Tom Arnold.

Arnold and a group of friends met regularly at Tandy’s for food and drink, which is how he got to know Stephens. They weren’t close, but Arnold, the former owner of Arnie’s Place, said Stephens was a hands-on owner. Graham said his husband drove to Concord five days a week.

“He was always willing to chip in and help there,” Arnold said. “He was very friendly as an owner, and you would always see him hustling, clearing tables, greeting people. He was always there and he gave a lot to Concord. There are not a lot of volunteers around here anymore, but he was one of them.”

Arnold said Stephens worked with him on the Main Street committee, which changed the landscape of Concord’s central street, widening the sidewalks and making parking more driver-friendly. Stephens also participated in the annual summer Market Days festival downtown, promoting the city’s many features.

Elsewhere, Arnold said he was dining with friends at Tandy’s outdoor section when he heard the sounds of a trumpet, made by what sounded like a polished musician.

He followed the music to the edge of the concrete steps, in the heart of Eagle Square, which descended into a sunken space used for a feature called Tandy’s Idol. The idea – Stephens’s idea – mirrored competition from American Idol.

“We were gossiping and I’m listening to this trumpet solo for about 10, 15 minutes,” Arnold said. “It was mesmerizing, and I finally got off the chair and walked to the edge of the steps and it’s Brian. He said he was a music major before moving into the restaurant business.”

Stephens’s LinkedIn account mentions that he attended Keene State College from 1985 to ’89 and received a degree in management. He served as the general manager at Applebee’s before partnering with Tandy in October 2009.

Graham, who broke down several times on the phone but always regained his composure, mentioned a story that he believed showed what Stephens was like on the inside.

He said Stephens agreed to help care for Graham’s mother in their Vermont home, rather than sending her to a facility. It was a promise Graham had made to his father before he died.

“The day she died, I went to bed and he stayed up with my mom half the night just holding her hand,” Graham remembered. “Most people wouldn’t do that. I can’t think of anyone who would be that committed and dedicated and compassionate toward someone else’s mother.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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