Dollars & Sense
Big Fish Grill makes its way to Ocean View with new location
One fish, two fish, red fish, new Fish.
Fans of the Big Fish Restaurant Group may already be keen on the group’s well-established area staples, including the classic American cuisine of the Summer House Saloon on Rehoboth Avenue and farm-to-table concept of Salt Air in Rehoboth Beach; the three Big Fish Grill locations in Rehoboth Beach, Wilmington and Glen Mills, Pa.; and the Crab House, Bella Coast Italian Kitchen, Big Fish Seafood Market; and the list going on.
But despite 10 unique operations, and nine of them in the First State, a Big Fish endeavor from restauranteurs and brothers Eric and Norman Sugrue had yet to make its way down to the southernmost Delaware beaches until this past winter.
In 1972, after graduating from college and moving to Sussex County, Bill Lord was not planning to open a landscaping business.
“When I first moved here, I was a teacher. I was just not destined to be a teacher. My wife Donna was. Her teaching job gave me the flexibility to try to do something I really wanted to do.”
Lord left education and answered a want-ad in the paper, and worked for a landscaper in Lewes for two years. He then decided to go out on his own and, with the help of his wife’s grandfather, Amos McCabe, was able to use for his budding business some of the property in Millville that once housed Delaware Quality Feeds.
“Amos let me use a little corner office there and a little patch of ground to store some stuff,” recalled Lord. “I’d watch out after him, do some jobs for him. He never had a son… He loved me right from the get-go. He took me hunting. I had never been hunting before, you know. I’m from Philadelphia.”
After 10 years in its Millville location, the staff at Aquacare Physical Therapy continues to expand its “menu” of services.
“We offer both ‘surf’ and ‘turf,’” said physical therapist Lauren Nuttle — referring to the pool-based aquatherapy available at Aquacare, as well as the “land-based” therapies offered there, too.
While the aquatherapy is obvious from the name, Nuttle said, the office offers more traditional physical therapy techniques, as well as some new ones that have just come into use in the past several years.
Nuttle said she loves the breadth of services offered at Aquacare because “I don’t have to tell someone, ‘Oh, we don’t have that here,’ or ‘We can’t do that here.’” The depth of the services allows staff at Aquacare to accept a wide range of patients, Nuttle said.
She recalled one favorite patient who had suffered several broken bones in a motorcycle accident. Thanks to the availability of the pool for therapy in which his body weight was supported — a person submerged up to his neck in water feels a loss of 90 percent of their body weight — he was able to start therapy there and follow through all the way to his complete recovery.
On Sunday, March 26, at 9 p.m., the doors will close for the last time at G&E Supermarket on Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View.
On Thursday, March 30, at 7 a.m. the doors will open for customers one mile to the south, at the new Hocker’s Supermarket in the Salt Pond Plaza.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr., whose father, Gerald Hocker Sr., took over the Cedar Neck Road store from his Uncle Jake in 1971.
Even though Jake Hocker had the store for 18 years — less time than the 46 years Gerald Hocker Sr. has been at the helm — some longtime customers still call the store “Jake’s.”
As Gerry and Gerald Hocker stood in the new store this week, contractors swarmed like bees, and the buzzing of drills punctuated the air. Four brand new self-checkout stands at the front of the store were swathed in plastic, to protect them from sawdust.
Kylee Rickards’ eyes light up as she describes the process of making the impossibly delicate layers of pastry that make up her croissants.
“You just keep folding them over and over on each other,” said the Culinary Institute of America graduate, who recently opened the Morning Buns Bake Shop in Ocean View, alongside her mother, Lynn Rickards. Her voice actually takes on a quiet reverence when she talks about the eight-hour process by which she transforms layers of pastry dough into buttery perfection.
“Croissants are my babies,” said Kylee, who went off to the CIA in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., after graduating from Sussex Technical High School.
The pair opened Morning Buns on Jan. 23, in a 1920s-era cottage on Atlantic Avenue (Route 26). While it wasn’t the location they had initially sought, the little house has turned out to be a perfect fit for the bakery. Its bright yellow exterior leads to an equally sunny coral and butter yellow interior, with pale green accents here and there.
On a recent morning, sun streamed through the bakery windows, glinting off the bakery case and its jewel-like contents. The sunlight gave a sugary sheen to croissants and danishes, cookies and scones. The aromas of cinnamon and coffee fill the air.
Kylee, whose studies at CIA concentrated on baking and pastries, said she arrives at the bakery each morning by around 4:30 a.m. to start on the day’s offerings. It’s a labor of love for her, and after a few years in New York and Washington, D.C., working in the quality-control side of the bakery business, she welcomed the chance to get her hands back into the butter and flour.
The Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce has couples-to-be covered this weekend, as the Chamber will host the 22nd Annual Central Sussex Bridal Show this Sunday, March 12, from noon to 3 p.m. at Cripple Creek Golf & Country Club.
“Every year, we see more vendors, new vendors who have never been in,” said Amy Simmons, the Chamber’s executive director.
After spending 16 years away from Sussex County, working in corporate law, Lewes native Jay Moffitt Esq. has returned, joining the Law Office of Susan Pittard Weidman.
Moffit graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1992 and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Delaware in 1997. Upon graduation, he matriculated to Duke University School of Law, from which he graduated in 2001.
“When I graduated from the University of Delaware, I thought it sounded like an interesting field,” he said. “It’s academically challenging, in a way, to be a lawyer.”
During law school, Moffitt clerked at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP in Delaware, as well at Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett LLP in New York. Upon graduation, he went to work for Simpson Thatcher, focusing on corporate transactional work and corporate litigation.
“I kept in touch with some of the partners I met at Morris, Nichols after that summer. When I decided I wanted to come back to Delaware, I reached out to them, was interviewed, and I got the job,” said Moffitt, who worked in Wilmington from 2005 to January 2017.
During his time at Morris, Nichols, Moffitt focused on corporate and commercial litigation, and he was made partner in 2011.
Local entrepreneur adds anteaters to swag bags for glitzy event
What do anteaters and actresses have in common? The answer involves handbags, swag, a local woman’s childhood love of a certain insect-eating mammal, and a big night in Hollywood.
Ten actresses, in particular — the ones who will be vying for the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress statuettes at Sunday’s Academy Awards in Hollywood — will receive handbags imprinted with an anteater pattern.
The bags, produced by Bethany Beach resident Julie Kypreos’ company, Jules K., are part of “Everyone Wins” promotional “swag bags” provided to Oscar nominees by the promotional company Distinctive Assets.
Through the Distinctive Assets promotion, packages of “swag” are delivered to the homes of nominees for Best Actress, Best Actor, Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor, as well as Best Director nominees and host Jimmy Kimmel.
Kypreos, whose handbags are sold online, said she came up with the idea of submitting her handbags for consideration while researching ways to get the word out about her unique handbags.
“I’m a start-up,” she said, adding that she recognizes that her handbags are so unique that they require some creative marketing. “No one is probably going to do a Google search for ‘anteater handbags,’” she said with a bit of a chuckle.
The swag bags include gifts for the nominees that range from a tube of ChapStick to a three-day stay at an 18-bedroom beachfront mansion in northern California, valued at $40,000. Kypreos’ handbags range in price from $370 to $395.
While all of the nominees for Best Director are men and, obviously, the 10 Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominees are men, they — as well as Kimmel — will also receive Jules K. bags. Kypreos said she tried to take the men’s significant others into consideration when choosing which bag to contribute for them, when applicable.
Quilting may be an old art, but Catherine’s Quilting uses technology to transform the basic craft into a finished heirloom piece. Catherine and Tim Peterson just recently opened their quilt shop on Church Street in downtown Selbyville.
Quilting can be a very personal craft, whether it’s a long-term labor of love by a group of friends, or maybe one woman, perhaps given for a wedding or baby gift. Whether hand-stitched in centuries past, or by a machine today, each scrap is carefully pieced together for a grander masterpiece.
Catherine’s Quilting helps with the final steps, attaching the thick batting, which transforms a decorative sheet into a cozy blanket for the home.
A couple from Pennsylvania started 2017 with a $121.6 million prize after matching all five white balls plus the red Powerball in the Dec. 17 lottery drawing. The man and woman, who wished to remain anonymous, purchased the winning ticket at Selbyville Goose Creek, a subsidiary of Cato Gas & Goose Creek Food Stores, located at 38452 DuPont Boulevard in Selbyville.
At the entrance to a greenhouse at Bearhole Farms near Roxana sits a blue tank about the size of a small hot tub. Orange-finned flashes flit around the bottom and a pump emits a constant thrum.
“That’s the engine,” says Bear Hole proprietor Cindy Stevens. The heart of the engine, which produces a perpetual harvest of 3,000 lettuce plants inside the 1,700-square-foot greenhouse, is fish. About 350 koi, common goldfish and channel catfish, to be precise.
In addition to swimming around the tank, the fish eat... and then when that food turns to fish waste, it is released into a system of channels that run under the lettuce plants, watering and feeding the plants. It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship.
As soon as the New Year, part of Bethany Beach will have a new look, with Pie restaurant owners Dan Lewis and Robin Rankin and Artful Bean owners Rose O’Hanlan and Kim Warner reaching an agreement last week that would allow Pie to expand, while the Artful Bean looks for a new home.
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 Barre Body
Linda Durfee sat in her car in front of the newly-opened Beach Barre Body 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.
Fenwick Wine Cellars held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, June 2, in celebration of the winery’s expanded facility construction and its new 26-acre property in Frankford, just north of its former location on Route 54 near Selbyville.
The homegrown winery business, owned by fourth-generation farmer Adrian Mobilia, first opened in 2010, with a goal to provide the community with the relaxing experience of an actual vineyard while learning about the wine and the importance of agriculture.
“We leased a building as a test, with the long-term plan always being our own land and building,” explained Mobilia. The hard part was finding the right piece of property. “We had been looking for land for three years,” he said. “Last year, we finally found the right space and purchased it.”
Su Casa holds ribbon-cutting for new Bethany furnishings store
Su Casa held its grand opening weekend, complete with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, on Saturday, June 4. The new store offers home furnishings, décor and small accessories, featuring modern and classic furniture.
Su Casa is focused on providing a source for locally made pieces with stories. Each piece of furniture Su Casa sells is available in a variety of different fabric options or finishes, allowing the buyer to create a unique piece that is exactly what they want. As well as its furniture selections, Su casa also offers a selection of rugs in many sizes.
There was much to do when Bill and Linda Guckin took over the restaurant space formally known as Charlie’s Bayside in Fenwick Island. There were renovations to get under way, color schemes to choose, a brand new menu to create and literal walls to come down, to optimize the space’s scenic waterfront views.
Oh, yeah — and they also had to move their collective allotment of worldly possessions and basically their entire lives from the next state over, from Philadelphia, Pa.
But after a complete redesign of both the restaurant’s atmosphere and its offerings, as well as an eagerly-endorsed one-way U-Haul rental receipt, Fin Alley finally made its debut, just in time for Memorial Day weekend of 2016.
“The one word that I kept on hearing was: ‘Excellent,’” said Linda Guckin of the opening weekend reception. “Not ‘good,’ ‘very good’ or ‘OK,’ but ‘excellent.’ There’s people that have returned three times already. That’s what we want.”
As husband-and-wife entrepreneurs, the Guckins had already embarked on no small number of successful entrepreneurial endeavors in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. But despite that success, city life had begun to take its toll.
That’s when the long-time visitors to the area’s beaches, with a vacation home in Bishopville, Md., began to find it more and more difficult to leave the beach and head back home.
“We were looking around for a business for quite a while, and then this opportunity came about,” explained Bill Guckin. “It’s a good location and great view. We thought, with a good remodel and fixing the place up — maybe improve the menu a bit — we thought people would really enjoy coming here. So we decided to jump on it.”