Each season, restaurant establishments do what they can to provide great service and food to locals and vacationers, alike, but few can claim the longevity and dedication that Warren’s Station has brought in Fenwick Island. This summer, the area staple will celebrate half a century at the Delaware shore – an accomplishment that few local restaurant owners can boast.
In 1960, Warren D. Johnson, a turkey farmer out of Nottingham, Pa., first introduced Warren’s Family Restaurant to Fenwick Island. Turkey dishes immediately became a hot commodity on the menu. A decade later, newlyweds Paula and Jeff Mumford – two of the restaurant’s employees – took over.
“I began as a dishwasher here when I was only 14 years old,” recalled Jeff Mumford. “When I was 21, Warren was looking to retire, and he asked me if I wanted to take over the business.”
Mumford happily obliged – not knowing the run of success he was in for. At the time, he noted, the economy was in a slump, not too dissimilar from what many business owners have witnessed in the past year and a half.
“Before long,” Mumford added, “more and more people would hear about the place, and we started seeing a lot of customers. People could always come here for an affordable meal, and today, everything on the menu is still under $20. I think that’s why we’ve managed to keep steady business, even in the harder times.”
Genuine homestyle cooking – retaining some of the original turkey dishes, as well as coastal cuisine from the Mid-Atlantic – came together for customers in the form of inexpensive, hearty meals.
“Originally,” Mumford added, “Warren planned on serving chicken and ribs, but it never really caught on. He started bringing turkeys down from Nottingham around the holidays – Christmas and Thanksgiving – and whatever was left over, he would freeze. Soon, turkey became the staple.”
Jeff and Paula Mumford decided to continue with the turkey menu items after stepping in as owners but also added some local flavor to the lineup.
“We definitely wanted to continue what Warren had started,” said Jeff Mumford, “but we also wanted to have some of the local delicacies available, like softshell crabs and crabcakes. I wanted to maintain the freshness and quality of the products you can find around here.”
By 1983, the restaurant’s popularity yielded an expansion, and the building was enlarged, replicating a U.S. lifesaving station, which, to this day, turns a lot of heads. By 1995 – when Jeff and Paula’s son, Scott, completed college – he was brought into the business, and, in 2003, his wife, Elise, joined the staff.
“After Scott and Elise came in,” said Jeff Mumford, “they brought some healthier aspects to the kitchen, like local fish dishes and salads. We offer something for everyone.”
Since the Mumfords took the helm in the early 1970s, Warren’s Station has become a family affair – not only for Jeff and Paula and their extended family, but for the hired help, as well.
“It’s really become a generational thing here,” said Jeff Mumford. “We constantly have kids interviewing to work here whose parents worked here before them. It’s really nice to be able to do that for families.”
“We’ve had employees refer brothers and sisters and children here,” added Scott Mumford. “There are retirees that come back every year, and teachers who help us out each season. Our baker is 83 years old now, and he’s been with us for quite some time. We can trust them all, and everyone works very hard to make sure customers are satisfied.”
While friendly and reliable service while tending to the customers plays a vital role in keeping patrons coming back, a lot of that loyalty goes back to the menu, too.
“When it comes to the food we have,” said Scott Mumford, “we try to stay as local as possible. We have been going to the same guy for our crabs, year after year. ”
“Our clientele is primarily young families and retirees,” his father added, “and most are in town to enjoy the beach. When they come in, they want to eat and go, and we want their experience to be a good one. Our name is on every plate that goes out. We have to be consistent with every meal we prepare. People who come in and enjoy what they’re eating want something as good as the last time they were here, and that’s what we strive for.”
Warren’s Station, now open seven days a week, starting at 8 a.m. each day, offers customers homestyle eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Signature breakfast specials and freshly baked breads and pastries can start the day off right, while soups, salads and lunch platters – including their signature hot turkey sandwich – offer options for a midday meal. Traditional roast turkey and Warren’s Crab Cutlet headline a slew of menu items for dinner.
Warren’s Station reopened for the season earlier this month, with a steady turnout on Mother’s Day weekend.
“That’s always one of our biggest weekends of the year,” noted Jeff Mumford, “and we had a lot of people who were happy to see us open again. Running a restaurant is a very demanding job that needs constant revision by someone. Fortunately, we have a reliable staff and great customers that keep us going. We’ve been really lucky that these great patrons come back, year after year.
“We had a long winter season,” he added, “and I think a lot of people are ready for warmer weather and antsy to get back to the beach, and we’ll be here, ready to serve them.”
Warren’s Station is located at 1406 Ocean Highway in Fenwick Island, and opens at 8 a.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all season. Dine-in and carry-out are available. For more information, call Warren’s Station at (302) 539-7156.