A lot has changed in 30 years at the beach. Real estate has peaked, leveled and dropped; and beaches have been replenished. Storms have come and gone, buildings have been torn down and re-built and the population has exploded.
One thing that hasn’t changed all that much and is still a staple to Fenwick Island, Bethany Beach, and Ocean City visitors alike is Ocean Side Pizzeria in Fenwick Island.
Bob and Sue Clower, of Fenwick Island, bought the business in 1981, just four months after getting married. Sue explained that Bob had worked for the previous owners, the Lynch’s, and he had had a gut feeling that they might want to sell the business.
“He wasn’t going to come back the next summer,” explained Sue, “but he said to let us know if they ever wanted to sell. A couple of hours later, they called!”
She explained that the previous owners assisted them by holding the mortgage and the Clowers took over Ocean Side exactly how it was. Gradually, they added things to the menu to add variety like salads.
Sue continued teaching for the Indian River School District and worked alongside Bob in the summers until 2004, when she retired from her teaching job. She said that both of Bob’s children, Rob and Candy, worked there and were instrumental in helping to grow the business. Rob, who lives in Puerto Rico, still comes back to work each summer.
“It’s funny how things work,” said Sue, explaining the way things turned out. “We got married in 1981 and four months later, had a business. It’s been great.”
She explained that they have literally had some of the same customers for 30 years.
“Our customers are all very nice people, we wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Jody McClanahan, who frequented Ocean Side a lot as a teenager visiting Fenwick Island, said that the pizzeria and sub shop has one very important thing going for it: consistently good food.
“You can always expect it to taste good,” she said, of their pizza, subs and steaks.
In 2004, they felt it was the right time for the business to expand and they made some other changes that year, as well. The business next door moved out and they knocked down the wall to add bathrooms, a bar and more seating. That year, they also got their liquor license for beer and wine and started to take credit cards as debit and credit cards became more the norm for beach-goers.
“If McDonalds’ is taking credit cards, it’s time to pay attention,” Sue Clower joked. “It all sort of came together that year. In 2004 our business exploded,” adding that the expansion was “absolutely what we needed. It’s a more comfortable atmosphere.”
As always, their pizza is a top seller, as well as their Italian subs and cheese-steaks. Another favorite is their “Strombobbi,” their take on a stromboli and named after Bob. On May 1, 2011, Ocean Side will celebrate their actual 30th anniversary and will offer a roll-back on small pizza and drink prices to the prices of 1981.
Although running a business and being your own boss comes with tough choices and lots of hard work, looking back, Sue said they enjoyed the ride.
“Being a business owner is a total commitment. But, it’s been a great 30 years — we are real proud of that fact.”