In August of 2011, a devastating fire shut down and all but destroyed Catch 54, one of the Fenwick Island area’s most recognized restaurants – one of seven local creations of restaurateur Matt Haley. But, as the saying goes, you can’t keep a good man down, and Haley, founder and head of SoDel Concepts, found a way to turn things around in time for Memorial Day weekend of 2012, and Catch 54 opened its doors again this past Monday, May 21.
“The fire was devastating,” Haley recalled, “but I was immediately filled with gratitude when I found out no one was hurt. The way people came together – I was appreciative for being a part of this community and incredibly thankful for the people I get to work with. I went through the entire gamut of emotions.”
More than 300 people were inside the restaurant last summer when it went up in flames, but everyone was able to escape safely.
Haley recognized the emergency personnel who handled the fire, too.
“It was really amazing to see how our staff handled the situation in conjunction with the local fire companies and police departments. It’s a tragic experience, but it couldn’t have been handled better. I’m very thankful for everything those crews did.
“In a way, it humbles me,” he added, “knowing that I had a restaurant to lose, and I’ve become very grateful for that. There was a time in my life when I had none of this.”
Among SoDel Concepts’ other restaurant projects are Fish On! and Betty’s in Lewes (the latter of which has been revamped this year to feature seafood and pasta), Lupo di Mare in Rehoboth Beach, Haley’s original restaurant Bluecoast and Matt’s Fish Camp in North Bethany, and NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View.
SoDel Concepts advocates use of local produce and seafood, and has expanded from restaurants to include Plate Catering, as well.
Construction crews and interior specialists came together, working tirelessly this offseason to get Catch 54 back in time for the summertime rush, and manager Jim Affeldt said he was eager to welcome customers back.
“We’ve got a really nice setup here now,” said Affeldt, who has been working with SoDel Concepts for nearly five years, most recently at Matt’s Fish Camp. “When anybody walks in, it really takes their breath away. It’s been a great experience for me, too, and to have a restaurant be built this quickly has been incredible.” He admitted that the last two weeks have been a little bit hectic, but it’s all for the best.
“Matt really went for that eye-opening experience,” Affeldt added. “You know you’re walking into something special when you come to Catch 54.”
Because of the number of other local restaurants run by SoDel, employees from Catch 54 didn’t stray too far.
“A lot of our staff coming back to Catch 54 will be the same familiar faces,” Affeldt said. “Our other restaurants gave them somewhere to go, and they’ve stayed involved with us through the entire process.”
Several modifications have been made to Catch 54’s menu, as well as the interior look. In addition to upstairs and downstairs bars and dining areas, the refurbished Catch 54 will offer deck seating on both levels, with a northern view over the backwaters of the Assawoman Bay.
“I think that deck seating is really going to be our home run this summer,” he said. “It’s such a great view that you really can’t find anywhere else.”
Haley and his staff weren’t the only ones pleased to see the restaurant open its doors back up, though.
“Everyone who walked into Matt’s Fish Camp, and all of our restaurants for that matter, kept asking us, ‘When’s Catch opening? When’s Catch opening?’” said Affeldt. “I think a lot of people are going to be really happy knowing we’re back.”
Catch 54, located at 54 Madison Avenue, just west of Fenwick Island, is open every day from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m., and offers happy hour from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. Starting June 4, Catch 54 will offer lunch, as well, and will extend its hours from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. For more information, call (302) 436-8600 or visit www.sodelconcepts.com.