Shore Foods getting new look in Bethany

For decades, Kathy Lawson Dryden’s family has owned the Shore Foods grocery store and neighboring bakery in downtown Bethany Beach.

What was originally a Lewes Dairy Market was purchased by her father, Alfred J. “Tut” Lawson Jr., in the middle of the last century and even survived — right down to its awning — the infamous 1962 nor’easter that destroyed many of the town’s beach homes and left feet of sand piled up blocks inland.

After the death of their father in 1966, Dryden’s brothers Keith and A.J. ran the grocery store until recent years, while she ran the bakery at which many long-time Bethany residents and visitors can recall standing in line — as both children and adults — on a Saturday morning to get doughnuts fresh out of the pans.

The family also owned the Sandy Toz beach shop next door, which led to the odd arrangement of having the Shore Foods walk-in freezer located in a portion of the beach shop’s storage room, when expansion of grocery storage was needed. That shop has since been sold, but the unique freezer arrangement lingers.

With the deaths of A.J. Lawson in 2006 and Keith Lawson this past January, the running of Shore Foods fell to Dryden. And, as she discovered, these days, even more storage room is needed for the grocery store. So Lawson made the decision to eliminate the bakery business and focus both her time and attention, and the space, on the grocery store itself.

That led to an April 25 meeting with the Bethany Beach Commercial Design Review Committee (DRC), to go over an application from Dryden for the changes she plans for the businesses’ exterior.

Gone will be the bakery’s separate storefront, with its interior space to be devoted to back-room storage for the grocery store. Dryden also plans to give the building’s façade an overhaul, replacing the existing surface with a faux brick treatment and eliminating both the bakery doorway and its window, as well as two existing windows in grocery store, in favor of storage and displays.

Committee members on April 25 questioned the need for eliminating the windows, citing a suggestion in the still-fresh commercial architectural guidelines that storefronts be formed primarily of glass.

“You’re doing some wonderful changes to it,” commented DRC Chairman Lew Killmer. “Wouldn’t some kind of window improve it?”

But Dryden said she needed to remove at least the center window in favor of a solid surface, with plans to place a tall produce case in that location and no other place to put the display. The storage room has no need for a window, which could also pose security concerns if left in place. And Dryden lamented that she would have to relocate a display of beauty products if required to leave the westernmost window in place.

“That’s what we’re here to discuss,” Killmer allowed during a dialogue on possible compromises on the window issue. “We’re trying to work with you, to find a compromise,” he added.

Committee member and Bethany Blues co-owner Jim Weisgerber, a representative of the town’s business community on the committee, recommended the committee allow Dryden to eliminate two of the three windows, retaining the glass double-door entrance to Shore Foods and the single window.

Killmer and Dryden said they didn’t feel the requirement for glass in a storefront was intended for a grocery store, but more for the town’s other types of retail shops. “It’s a different kind of store,” Killmer noted.

The remaining window would have to retain at least three-quarters of its current size, under an agreement Dryden made with the committee.

Under that agreement, committee members gave unanimous approval last Friday to Dryden’s plans for revamping her Shore Foods store, with particularly positive attention paid to her plan to add benches and flower pots to create a seating arrangement in front of the store. A new awning, replacing the storm-weathering marvel, will display the Shore Foods name in hunter green on yellow.

Dryden also plans to remove the familiar chicken rotisserie machine that has stood outside the front of the store for as long as many people can remember. Dryden said she would like to eventually incorporate a rotisserie inside the store.

Also gone from the store — permanently, Dryden said — are the drink vending machines, trash can, newspaper boxes and the public pay telephone, while the existing ice machine will remain out front.

And that walk-in freezer in Sandy Toz? Dryden said she hopes it, too, will someday be under the same roof as the rest of her grocery business, likely in the former bakery space.

Dryden said her current hopes are to remodel and reopen Shore Foods in time for Memorial Day. She said she has a contractor ready to start on the façade makeover as soon as permits are lined up and the building supplies arrive.