Dollars & Sense
There was a look of pride on the face of Mike Cummings as he sat in his conference room earlier this week.
The driving force and CEO of Miken Builders in Millville was enjoying the fact that his company was celebrating 30 years of doing business, and that their spinoff, BetterLiving of Delmarva, was in its eighth year of constructing sunrooms, porch enclosures and awnings.
He was proud of the fact that his average employee has worked with Miken for more than 10 years, that he has worked with Contractors for a Cause for nearly 20 years and was actively involved in the construction of Justin’s Beach House — the respite home in Bethany Beach for families affected by cancer. And he was most certainly proud of the two young men who shared the conference-room table with him.
Patrick is the sales manager at BetterLiving, and Sean is a project manager for Miken. They are both well-versed in the ways of Miken and know that each project they take on must live up to the high standards long-attributed to the company.
The Sussex County Today & Tomorrow Conference was held last week, with the mission of providing “insight and identify opportunities in Sussex County to promote economics, partnership and collaboration.”
Micheal Meoli, owner/operator of The Meoli Companies, was the conference’s keynote speaker, and discussed what it takes to be successful in business.
It started, as do many things in small towns, with a conversation at the post office. Then there came a letter from the CIA.
And with that, 40 years ago, the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce was born.
So says the organization’s first president, Clayton Ringler. Now 87 years old and living in Hayesville, NC, Ringler fondly recalled the chamber’s early days in a phone conversation last week.
The post office conversations, Ringler said, led to meetings of the first of the chamber’s organizers at Murray’s Topside Restaurant in Ocean View. Soon, the local newspaper, the Delmarva News, picked up on the chamber’s formation and published an article about it.
That’s where that letter comes into play. It was actually from Odette May, who at the time worked for the Central Intelligence Agency but was looking to retire in Bethany Beach. May, it seems, had seen the newspaper article and was writing to tell Ringler she wanted to get involved in the chamber.
Over the course of the past 22 years, the Cottage Café restaurant near Bethany Beach has more or less written the book for “the second season.”
Shoulder-season specials — including the Friday fish fry, Monday fried oysters and the always-popular roast turkey dinner on Sundays — have long been tradition for a legion of the area’s locals, and a way for the restaurant and pub to not only stay open throughout the winter but to show appreciation for the community that helps make it all possible.
While they’ve nailed that recipe down practically to a science after nearly two decades of R&D, this off-season, they’re cranking things up to 11 by teaming up with 16 Mile Brewery.
“It was like a match made in heaven,” said Cottage Café business manager Tom Harman, with a laugh, of when 16 Mile “Beer Slinger” Joe Botchie first came down to meet with Cottage Café/Bethany Boathouse bar manger Melanie Petrie and the rest of the Cottage crew.
It was their moment.
So much so that, on the morning of Aug. 25, upon entering the newly renovated space above Ocean Vayu Yoga and Pivot Physical Therapy, on what was to be the day of their grand opening, Angela Hutton, Amy Smith and Kira DiSabatino — the proud new owners of Pin Up Girls Salon in Ocean View — took full advantage of it, very literally jumping for joy to mark both the occasion and the milestone.
“I won’t lie — we walked in this morning, and we just collided and hugged. We acted like a bunch of little girls, screaming,” said Hutton with a laugh. “It feels amazing. It finally feels like we’re at home.”
PUG’s three co-owners may be embarking on a brand new venture but they are by no means strangers to the scissors and chair, each with an extensive salon résumé, having worked together at a salon in Millville for the past seven years. That’s where they not only honed their craft, but spent days dreaming about eventually going out on their own.
This summer brought a new addition to the bustling Bayside community near Fenwick Island, with the incarnation of the Town Center Market.
The open-air pop-up market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, until Labor Day weekend. With vendors changing every night, homeowners and visitors are being treated to a rotation of local artisans, businesses and food trucks.
According to Bayside Director of Marketing Jeff Evans, the market was conceived out of the desire to “enhance the experience for the community” by bringing offerings from local businesses to residents.
“It was Michelle Freeman’s vision to provide some retail opportunities here in Bayside,” Evans said.
This summer, the idea was to bring a temporary, open-air market to the community, with the hope of eventually evolving it into a permanent retail space within the community.
Whether someone is looking for a special piece of furniture, a unique something to fill that corner in their beach house or just want to feel like they’re in Grandma’s attic for a little while, the Red Barn in Dagsboro could be just the ticket.
Robyn and Tom Wilhoit, the new owners of the Clayton Avenue resale shop, are settling into their first summer at the 100-year-old building. With goods literally hanging from its well-aged rafters, the couple said they finally feel like they have sufficient space to spread out and properly showcase the wide variety of items they have gathered.
Native Delawareans, the Wilhoits began their resale shop adventure after years in other fields. Initially, they opened Three Good Things in Oak Orchard — and quickly realized they needed more space.
“We outgrew the building on Route 24 in about three months,” Tom Wilhoit said.
When they were looking for a new spot, the Red Barn stood out because of its history, and because it offered three times the space of the Three Good Things spot, he said. As it turned out, one of the Wilhoits’ mentors in the resale business, George Ritter, was an owner of the former business located in the Red Barn.
Jennifer Wojcik knows fish.
Since moving to the area some 20 years ago, if she wasn’t working behind the bar, she had most likely gone fishing.
In fact, just last year, Wojcik and her crew on the Reel Passion even took first place in the Wahoo Division at the annual Poor Girl’s open in Ocean City, Md.
So when Ocean View Seafood went up for sale this past spring, with owners Dave and Beth Long ready to retire, combining her love of fishing with her experience in customer service just made sense.
“It worked out perfect. The place found me,” said Wojcik, who has been the proud new owner of Ocean View Seafood since purchasing the business in May.
“I’m lucky enough that the Longs chose me. I want to make sure that I do the best I can. It’s a family-run business.”
He may be in California, but Pete “Pierson” Roenke’s heart will always be in southern Delaware; and he has just launched a new business to pay tribute to his roots in the First State.
Delaware Apparel is an internet-based company that sells T-shirts, hats, jackets and stickers with Delaware-related slogans. The company has also been featured in “pop-up” displays at local stores, including the Lululemon outlet in Rehoboth Beach.
Roenke, a 2007 graduate of Indian River High School, grew up a few yards from the ocean in Fenwick Island, with all that entails — surfing, bodyboarding and just enjoying the beach lifestyle. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 and joined the U.S. Marines that same year.
Former lawyer launches Bethany’s first exclusive studio with Beach Body Barre
Linda Durfee sat in her car in front of the newly-opened Beach Body Barre studio in Bethany Beach, trying to work up the nerve to go in. Through the car’s windshield, she watched all of the 20-, 30- and 40-somethings walk through the door with only the workout clothing on their backs and seemingly without another thought.
Now in her 70s, she wondered if she could, too.
“I was sitting in the parking lot. My husband brought me down here, and I said to him, ‘OK —take a look at all those young bodies. I’m not going in there!” Durfee recalled with a laugh. “It’s kind of intimidating to walk into it.”
However, just like most newcomers to the growing exercise movement simply known as “barre,” despite her initial concerns, once she went in for one workout, she was hooked.
Woodsong Inn aims to be relaxing retreat and venue
A tree-lined driveway leads to Woodsong Inn & Retreat. It rests on a quiet back road. No one drives there unless they’re looking for the peaceful bed-and-breakfast near Roxana and Ocean View.
But that countryside seclusion makes the inn and event venue special, said co-owner Jane Errett Vincenti. Although she’s originally from Chester County, Pa., Vincenti’s family still owns the Bethany Beach cottage her ancestor, William Russell Errett, built around 1902 when helping to develop the new town.
Now, less than seven miles from Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, Woodsong’s two buildings are hosting everything from quiet weekend getaways to full weddings and parties.
“It is so relaxing back here,” said Debbie Keefe, innkeeper at the grassy, waterside property at 37269 Dirickson Creek Road, Frankford.
It was late last spring when Brittany Baker returned home from Puerto Rico, expecting to tend to someone else’s bar.
Spending the better part of her life’s so-far quarter-century in South Bethany, and after graduating from the University of Delaware, it was just something that she had always done — sticking together a routine résumé of winter world travel and growing up on sunny-season jobs along the Bethany boardwalk, swirling Dickey’s Frozen Custard, working at Breakers Surf Shop and slinging gin at area restaurants.
Then, she got a phone call.
“It was very random,” Baker said of the unexpected suggestion from long-time friend Erin Ternahan — whose family owns Breakers and, at the time, also owned the shop adjacent, formerly known as “The Parlour.”
“We were kind of joking — she was like, ‘Buy it — we’ll be neighbors. It’ll be like old times — like we’re 14 again.’”
No longer 14, when Baker brought the idea up to her parents, Ken and Ann Baker, one supper-night, it didn’t seem as funny as it did functional.
The family had long been boiling on ideas for a business in their hometown, never quite finding one cooked with enough consistency to stick to the fridge.
Until that night, when that one finally did.
Turtle Beach Café continues to jive in summer No. 5
“I’m as all in as you are.”
That’s what Tristan Smyth told his mother, Tamara Smyth, when she approached him during lacrosse season with the idea to launch Turtle Beach Café along the Bethany Beach boardwalk, now some four years ago.
A sophomore at Indian River High School then, and helping pioneer the Indians’ lacrosse program as a defenseman, Smyth already had a lot going on. However, like his father, Tony Smyth, he had faith not only in his mother’s vision, but her culinary gifts, experienced firsthand.
“She was always the ‘go to’ on the holidays. She’s always been a great cook,” Tony Smyth said. “She’s always been the one that could always pull it together, no matter who showed up. Whether it was five or 15 that showed up, Tamara had it down, always had fantastic food.”
Four years later, and currently in their fifth summer of business, Turtle Beach Café has become a Bethany Beach tradition for locals and vacationers alike.
After a complete revamp of the restaurant’s former space — painting the walls in the now-signature Turtle Beach teal and white, setting up a brand new kitchen and offering a few well-placed palms and outdoor seating to go along with their oceanfront boardwalk view — the Smyth’s turned to the menu, and to making some of Tamara Smyth’s former family-exclusive favorites available to everyone.
The theme throughout the menu is undoubtedly fresh, local, homemade and an alternative to the usual boardwalk staples.
“We found our niche,” said Tristan Smyth of the concept. “There’s so many places around here for burgers, fries, milkshakes, fried food — we’re trying to do the healthy aspect.”
On June 8, Hooked Up celebrated the restaurant’s one-year anniversary by hosting a ribbon-cutting with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber Commerce. Hooked Up Ale House & Raw Bar is the fourth restaurant in the Off the Hook Restaurant Group. The restaurant’s menu includes a variety of food, ranging from seafood and oysters to burgers and wings.
Operation SEAs the Day supporter Armand’s Pizzeria celebrates 15 years
The Drosdzal family at Armand’s Pizzeria & Grille is in the service industry. That much is obvious. Celebrating a major anniversary this summer, they’ve been in the service industry now for going on 15 years.
Much of that service has been in the form of delivering the goods — specialty pizzas in their signature deep-dish style, signature pastas, such as Riley’s homemade ravioli stuffed with Valentino’s ricotta cheese, or an array of fresh salads, subs, seafood entrees and other traditional Italian fare. But not-so-obviously, the Drosdzals have also been doing their best to deliver on serving those who serve the country as well.
“We’ve been blessed here, and we wanted to give back, to all of the community,” said Ron Drosdzal, owner, operator and family patriarch.