Business Persons of the Year: Ryan McDermott and Aran McDermott

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Ryan McDermott and Aran McDermott, brothers and owners of Harrigan’s and Columbia Inn, are true hometown boys. They went to William Mason, Lazar Middle School, and graduated from Montville Township High School. Ryan lives in Towaco with his wife, Cheryl, and twin daughters, Reese and Riley. Aran lives in Montville with his daughter, Genevieve.

The McDermotts are celebrating three anniversaries this year, giving a deeper significance to the meaning of this award.

Their grandfather, Jack McDermott, emigrated from Ireland to America exactly 100 years ago, and spent his very first night in Towaco, at his sister’s home on Bott Lane. Years later, Jack’s son, Joseph, and his wife, Wallis, returned to Bott Lane where they built their first home and raised their two boys, Ryan and Aran.

Harrigan’s is celebrating its 35th anniversary. This family restaurant was once an old dive bar called Jerry’s Tavern, known as a biker’s hangout. Joseph McDermott used to say there was no place in Montville to get a good burger, and decided to change that. In 1982, he bought Jerry’s and transformed it into the warm, inviting Irish pub often described as the Cheers of Montville, where everybody knows your name.

Columbia Inn is celebrating its 20th anniversary. When Ryan McDermott was 27, he joined his father’s restaurant business, and they purchased Columbia Inn in 1996. It was a vacant building with boarded up windows and a dirt parking lot. They faced a very tough challenge, but managed to open seven months later, in 1997. Columbia Inn has become well-known for its fine cuisine, attentive service, and delicious thin crust pizza.

Aran joined the business in 2004. Joseph, passed away in 2010. Wallis now splits her time between Montville and Hobe Sound, Florida. The brothers run the business with the values instilled in them by their parents. Their priority has always been to support Montville through contributions to the local sports and school activities, events, and fundraisers that come their way.

For the McDermotts, one of the greatest rewards is the many Montville kids who have worked for them over the years; and even more gratifying is the second generation – the children of these children – who come in for their first part-time jobs after school. They are extremely grateful for the many wonderful, dedicated employees who have been with them for decades. According to Ryan McDermott, “Montville has been our entire life.”