ThatMomentOLD ORCHARD BEACH — The last day began just like the first day.

Hoss and Mary were in the kitchen early, moving easily through their familiar routine. They cut vegetables, mixed sauces, baked coffeecake.

“Tomorrow we’re a state without a nation,” Mary said as she headed outside to hang the open flag for the last time.

For six years, Brian “Hoss” Coddens and Deena “Mary” Eskew served up innovative comfort food to a flock of fans who savored the burgers, sandwiches and cheesecakes Hoss and Mary dreamed up for them, and then often posted on Facebook enthusiastic and detailed descriptions of their meals.

Business was better than it ever had been. It was exactly what Hoss and Mary always wanted.

But they’re packing their knives and heading to Key West, back to where Hoss and Mary became Hoss and Mary.

• • • • •

It was 1998 and Mary was standing at the corner of the bar in the Key West restaurant where she worked, shucking oysters with a coworker, when Hoss walked through the door. Mary noticed him immediately.

Hoss, who had just moved south from New England, looking for a fresh start and warm weather, noticed the woman with a big personality and even bigger laugh, but his focus was elsewhere.

“She was adorable, of course, but I needed a job,” he said. “I was looking to eat. I was literally living on the street the night before.”

That was a Wednesday. Mary talked to Hoss on Thursday, asked him out on Friday and they’ve been together ever since.

They spent the next eight years in Key West, working in busy restaurants and enjoying island life. By 2006, they knew they wanted to open a restaurant. They just didn’t know where.

So they quit their jobs, bought a 19-foot van and drove across the country. Eventually they landed in Maine.

“Maine felt right and good and easy,” Mary said. “We wanted to see what the universe would provide.”

• • • • •

In Maine, they waited tables and briefly ran a food truck, but that wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. Then, in May 2008, they saw a faded “for rent” sign on the Tradewinds cafe at a flea market in Arundel. With $2,000 and three weeks notice, they were in business.

Hoss, happy to be back behind a grill, served up burgers with a twist, topped with things like macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and fried lobster. Mary’s coffeecake – added quickly to the menu after a batch of blueberry muffins was ruined on opening day – became the cafe’s signature treat. Named for her grandmother, Margaret Futcher, the Mother Futcher’s Coffeecake even made its way into a decadent milkshake.

And then came the Manimal challenge and a brief foray into television fame.

During those early days in Arundel, Hoss cooked up a “Manimal” food challenge for a friend who gobbled down 4 pounds of food in 20 minutes. After a local newspaper columnist mentioned the similarity of the challenge to the ones featured on the show “Man vs. Food,” Hoss and Mary found themselves in front of the cameras and whipping up an eight-patty burger and Mother Futcher’s shake for host Adam Richman. He easily won the challenge.

The show brought a level of attention to the cafe that surprised no one more than Hoss and Mary.

“It changed the dynamic of our business very quickly,” Hoss said of the 2010 episode. “It gave us a push to move to our own place.”

Shortly after the show aired, they decided it was time to close Tradewinds for the season and finally open a restaurant that was truly Hoss & Mary’s.

“We were just on TV and then we didn’t exist anymore,” Hoss said.

• • • • •

But they existed on Facebook, where Hoss posted updates and the number of followers climbed past 5,000. By the time Hoss & Mary’s opened in February 2011 in Old Orchard Beach, fans were eagerly awaiting the chance to become customers.

There, in the shadow of a roller coaster, Hoss and Mary were finally home.

For four years, they served up their signature “peace, love and tasty grub” to customers who became family.

“They are so loving and so welcoming,” said Anne-Marie Cote, a customer from Quebec who frequented the restaurant with her family. “There’s going to be a big empty space. They’re irreplaceable.”

Year-round, loyal customers flocked to the restaurant. Cheery reds and yellows made the walls glow bright even on the grayest of winter days in an empty beach town.

But being smack dab in the middle of one of Maine’s busiest tourist spots had its downside. During the summer, locals couldn’t park nearby and business was so brisk Hoss and Mary couldn’t focus on creating specials and bonding with customers – the things that made working six days a week worth it.

They looked for a new spot outside of Old Orchard Beach, but nothing felt quite right. Instead, what did feel right was taking a leap of faith – just like the one that brought them to Maine – and heading back to Key West.

• • • • •

It had been busy every day since Hoss and Mary announced in February they were closing their restaurant. Summertime busy. Lines out the door.

There had already been so many tears, Mary said, but the lines of people waiting to say goodbye were both overwhelming and encouraging.

The first customers to arrive on the last day traveled the farthest to be there.

Cote, her husband, Dominic Sicotte, and their four daughters tumbled out of their minivan, the kids running to embrace Hoss and Mary. Friends since the Tradewinds days, Hoss and Mary have watched the Sicotte girls grow up.

The Sicottes handed over a piece of driftwood covered with handwritten messages: “I love your hot dogs. I love you.”

“At night when we tuck the kids into bed, we tell them we’ll meet in our dreams,” said a teary-eyed Sicotte. “They say they’ll meet us at Hoss and Mary’s.”

For the next six hours, there was a constant line out the door and an hour wait for food.

Over and over, customers said the same thing: they came for the food and stayed for Hoss and Mary.

Over and over, they said it was never just a restaurant.

And over and over, they said closing day was bittersweet.

• • • • •

It was most bittersweet, perhaps, for Brett Crosby and his parents, Charlie Potter and Rhonda Crosby, of Milford, Massachusetts. Hoss called them “the most important family in Hoss and Mary Nation” when he announced their final lunch was ready.

Brett, who is 20 and has autism, spent six summers working for Hoss and Mary, wiping tables and emptying trash cans. There was no way he’d miss the last day, so he showed up ready to work.

“They’re great people and they gave me my first job,” Brett said. “I can’t thank them enough.”

As the afternoon wore on and supplies ran low, Potter and Rhonda Crosby pulled down letters off the menu board. Gone first were the shakes, then the haddock and the burgers. For hours, Hoss barely looked up from the grill, breaking only occasionally to hug a customer.

“It was a pleasure to feed you,” he would say.

And then there was only one order left.

Hoss plopped the meat for two cheesesteaks on the grill. With the same intense focus as always, he watched as the meat sizzled and cheese bubbled, then slipped it into buns. Everyone around him was already in tears as he stepped to the microphone to call the order.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, pausing for a split second to take a deep breath. “The last meal served at Hoss and Mary’s.”