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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
a few hotels are being converted into condos to accomodate for the huge demand for houses down at the beach. hotel rooms are becoming more scarce. dewey beach is seeing more and more people every year, and business is doing well down at the beach.

The heat is on to find a room in Dewey this summer
3 hotels are being converted to condos -- a loss of 175 units

DEWEY BEACH -- If you usually stay in Dewey Beach's hotels or motels, finding a place to lay your head this year just got a little harder.

During the off-season, three hotels closed, and they are being converted into condominiums.

The loss of Marina Suites, Dewey Beach Suites and Southwinds means 175 of the 648 rooms in Dewey Beach have disappeared, a loss of 27 percent.

With high occupancy rates in Dewey Beach last summer, more people will have to either rent homes or condos in Dewey, or look outside of town.

For the remaining motels and hotels open this summer, there's not much room for more vacationers.

"Summer is summer. When you're full, you're full. We can't get any busier," said George Metz, owner of the Sea Esta Motels on Del. 1 in Dewey. With high gas prices predicted for the summer, he expects an extra busy summer and fall.

"People travel locally," Metz said. "We're a tankful of gas away from several major cities."

Carol Everhart, executive director of the Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the loss of rooms will have its biggest effect this summer on holiday weekends.

"On the most popular weekends, it's going to be more challenging to find accommodations right in Dewey Beach proper," she said.

Jaclyn Deldeo checked into the Sand Palace Motel in Dewey on Friday evening. A Delcastle High School senior, she was at the beach for a prom.

Deldeo says she travels to the beach nearly every weekend during summer.

She said she didn't have any problem getting a reservation for a room this weekend. But with beach season officially starting next weekend, she'll start making reservations early.

"We're going to have to plan ahead," she said. "It's kind of a bummer, because what if it's a last-minute thing, and you decide to go down the beach?"

Parking at greater premium

Everett Wodiska, general manager of the Sand Palace Motel, said he has not seen a increase in early bookings.

That may change as word spreads that more than 25 percent of the hotel and motel rooms in town have disappeared.

With occupancy around 98 percent during summer, Wodiska sees the fall and spring of 2007 as time to increase business.

"There's not much movement that can be made in-season," he said. Sand Palace occupancy rates are 100 percent on summer weekends. "But even if the same number of people show up [in the fall], there are less places for them to stay. It's going to be hard on the tourists."

Wodiska predicted more people will stay at Del. 1 hotels outside Dewey, meaning more cars driving into town and looking for the few, precious parking spots. He said he'll be keeping a closer eye on his lot to make sure non-guests don't hijack it.

Condo boom not over yet

The condo push may continue in Dewey, taking its biggest entertainment complex with it.

Highway One LLP, a partnership of eight people who own Ruddertowne -- The Rusty Rudder, The Lighthouse, Crabber's Cove and Baycenter -- have filed an application with the town to convert the site into condos during the next five years.

The application came after Dewey Beach Mayor Courtney Riordan said restricting conversions of businesses into residential space could be considered.

Alex Pires of Highway One said he doesn't predict a big impact from the off-season conversions. He said it was rare for both Marina Suites, once owned by Highway One, and Dewey Beach Suites, a current Highway One property, to be totally booked last summer.

"I don't think it makes any difference because they never are all sold out," he said. "The number of nights in Dewey when all the rooms were sold out were very few last year, so I think it's a fallacy that this is going to be a big problem."

Sand Palace Motel General Manager Everett Wodiska checks in Delcastle High School senior Jaclyn Deldeo, 18, on Friday.

A construction crew works in April on turning the Southwinds motel into a condominium complex. The owners of Ruddertowne have filed an application to convert their site, too.


•Call the Chamber of Commerce at 227-2233. The staff can tell you late in the week what is available.

•If no hotel rooms are available, consider house rentals or condominiums.

•If you're open to staying outside Dewey, look at hotels and condos beyond town limits, perhaps on Del. 1 or in Rehoboth Beach.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
the bethany beaches should get a much-needed widening.

Southern resorts ready for more sand
Bethany, South Bethany waiting for replenishment projects

Bethany Beach resident Bill Sanderson has confidence that what winter storms and winds took from the beach, the gentle breezes of summer will return.

But to see Bethany's beach now, some visitors might be skeptical.

"I don't think they have any faith in Mother Nature," he said.

Bethany and its neighbor, South Bethany, are the last of Delaware's public-access, oceanfront towns awaiting major, federally designed beach renourishments.

Rehoboth and Dewey beaches were rebuilt last summer and now sport beaches more than 150 feet wide. In addition, there is a man-made dune with beach grass and sand fencing. They are designed to build a dune that will protect the fragile shoreline from future storm damage. Fenwick Island got additional sand last fall, in a similar federally-funded project.

Between Bethany and South Bethany, the project would rebuild two miles of ocean beach. Under the federal proposal, the rebuilt beach would be about 150 feet wide.

"We're very concerned," said Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Walsh. "No question it's a priority in our town. ... The beach protects us."

Municipal and state officials are waiting to see whether Congress will have money to help pay for the large-scale beach rebuilding project.

Walsh said he is pleased with the efforts of Delaware's congressional delegation to push for the federal dollars for the project. But he also said his town is competing with other projects nationally, including those designed to rebuild the storm-damaged Gulf Coast.

"We have $3.3 million and would love to have another $14 million to help complete" the federal share of the project, Walsh said.

The total cost to do both municipal beaches is estimated at $27 million. The Army Corps of Engineers designed the beach protection projects and oversees the work. The state covers 40 percent of the cost.

The federal share is $17.57 million. The state's cost is $9.55 million.

"It's a big number," Walsh said.

"We've got a long way to go."

Town officials are working with a Washington lobbyist to help win support for the project beyond Delaware's congressional delegation, he said.

In addition, they are urging property owners and visitors to write to Congress asking for support of a beach protection project, Walsh said.

Meanwhile, the beach is holding its own.

Anthony P. Pratt, the state's shoreline and waterway manager, said Bethany is in better shape this year than in some years past at the start of Memorial Day weekend.

Beaches along Delaware's ocean coast always lose sand during the winter but, typically, the sand returns and the beaches widen as summer progresses. Strong nor'easters, hurricanes and tropical storms, however, can sweep away much of the built-up sand in a matter of hours.

Pratt calls the movement from a winter beach to a summer beach "normal seasonal adjustment."

But he, too, is concerned about the future of Bethany's beach.

Looking ahead

If the funding is federally approved, the quickest any beach repair likely would begin in Bethany and South Bethany would be January, he said. If no money comes, "we'll weather another winter and hope for the best" with next year's appropriations, Pratt said.

The last time Bethany's beach had sand pumped in was in 1998. State officials did that work, with money from the state lodging tax.

Sanderson is optimistic that the beach will recover in the days and weeks ahead. He walks it every day and said he has already noticed an improvement, even from last week. He said the sand loss is most noticeable near the rock piles that were installed to help hold the sand. At the north end of town, the rocks are exposed. In the past, they would have been covered, he said.

Pennsylvanians Randy Clemson and Jackie Zehner said they didn't notice much sand loss this year.

"There's more sand than there has been in other years," Jackie Zehner said.

After the usual loss of sand over the winter, the beach in front of the boardwalk in Bethany Beach is much more narrow than those just replenished in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach. Summer wave patterns usually bring more sand, but the resort town is banking on a rebuilding project, too.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
here's an article on the changing restaurant scene at the beach as more year-round residents make an impact on the economy.

(this thread is starting to become a good place to post articles of the beach area, so i think i'm going to continue to do this.)

Beach dining takes a turn for the simple
Restaurants respond to demand for good meals at reasonable prices

Up and down the coast, the Delaware shoreline shifts season by season, changing shape subtly with each new wave and every puff of wind.

Just inland, in the towns that draw tourists by the thousands to relax and dine, the tides of change are also reshaping the resorts' restaurant industry, sometimes gently, at other times with pressure that's steady and strong.

Change has always been a part of beach dining from season to season, from year to year, but in recent times change is being guided by a new kind of calculus, restaurant owners say. Diners' tastes have always been prone to shift, but today those shifts are being influenced more than ever by such seemingly unrelated forces as gas prices, rapid development, electric bills and even parking spaces.

"I think the days of spending $30 and getting a huge plate with a little teeny thing in the middle are gone around here," said Jamie Davis, who just opened a casual seafood restaurant called JD Shuckers in Angola.

He and other restaurant owners say today's pressures have brought a new kind of dynamic to the dining business here, one that's pushing more restaurants out of the towns and onto the Coastal Highway, and creating a more competitive market that rewards simplicity and value over refinement and exclusivity.

"As an American public, I think we're kind of frustrated and done with [restaurants] being snotty," said Spencer Derrickson, co-owner of the Rehoboth Beach restaurant Abstractions. "They don't need to be stressed out by a server, or [worry] they have the proper fork."

Even as diners seek more casual alternatives, they're still in pursuit of the excitement and flair that has come to define beach dining, demanding that restaurant owners find ways to blend both. As a result, owners say, beachgoers have more options than ever for getting good, inventive food at decent prices.

Upscale revolution's old news

It wasn't always that way. In the 1980s, a revolution in upscale, cutting-edge dining was sparked in Rehoboth Beach, eventually spreading south to other resort towns and even influencing the refinement of the restaurant scene in Wilmington. The less-sophisticated predecessors of these high-end restaurants remained, but relatively few new restaurants rose to take the middle ground of mid-range dining with modern sensibilities.

The quest for familiar comforts that followed the terrorist attacks of 2001 helped change all that, and in recent months, the added pressure of rising prices for gasoline and electricity added impetus to a shift toward casual dining, owners said. Some of the most successful restaurants of recent years weren't the high-dollar, high-concept destinations that drew the foodies to the coast in the 1980s and 1990s, but places such as Lewes' Blue Plate, a savvy update on the diner concept, and such straightforward favorites as Jake's Seafood House.

"You want people to come back. You don't want to hit them one time with a big pop," said Anthony Di Domenicis, who co-owns two Adriatico restaurants -- one in Rehoboth, the other on the highway -- and is opening a casual restaurant on Del. 1 called Wahoo Raw Bar & Crab Co.

According to a study by Technomic, a food industry consultant, diners have been cutting back on spending at restaurants this spring -- 22 percent said they aren't ordering as many side dishes, compared with 10 percent last November. Even last December, the news wasn't upbeat -- 40 percent reported they are dining out less frequently.

As a result, customers are "gravitating towards food sources that they view as offering a good value," the Technomic report said.

While the resorts have kept an upscale dining edge -- especially in Rehoboth and Bethany -- the beach in recent years began to see relatively fewer restaurants open with expensive menus and exclusive attitudes.

"I think people are going more middle of the road with that," said Jim Paslawski, who owns Blue Plate and just opened an Irish restaurant called Finbar on Rehoboth Avenue. "You kind of want the diners to come back again and again," so it's crucial now to keep it affordable for families and young couples.

The parking issue

Ironically, to build on the success they found with casual dining, some restaurants had to leave the towns where they first found it.

As Rehoboth's restaurant reputation and popularity grew, so did the number of people hunting for parking in the square-mile town. Rather than battle for a spot and then trudge the kids four blocks to eat, families find it easier to head out to Del. 1, where there's not a meter maid to be found, restaurant veterans said.

"It's more competitive because of the parking-space issue," said Alison Blyth, who has owned two of Rehoboth's trend-setting restaurants -- La La Land and Yum Yum -- and now runs Go Fish!, a British fish-and-chips-and-seafood shop near the boardwalk. "Rehoboth has shot itself in the foot totally because of that."

Some of the restaurants maintained their locations in town when they headed out to the highway, but in other cases, they left the old property behind. While such restaurants as Jake's and Adriatico still have their downtown locations, such longtime beach classics as La Rosa Negra in Lewes forsake the city life altogether.

On the highway, they have a chance for far greater profit -- as the cars that swamp Jake's each weekend will prove -- but in some foodies' minds, they have lost the unmatched ambience a downtown location provided. On the highway, they are also closer to the shifting population center as more people choose to live in the area year-round and new housing appears outside town centers.

Extended season

The year-round residents in those homes are seeking something more practical and affordable than the upscale restaurants could offer, owners said.

"A lot of people are stretching their wallet to get the town homes and have to stretch their wallet to get the entertainment," Derrickson said.

The growth helped support an ever-growing influx of national chain restaurants, and led more restaurants to stay open in the off season, owners said. The rising gas prices are also cutting into profits, according to Technomic, so as owners respond to the pressure to stay affordable, many are realizing they must stay open past the summer.

"It used to be, years ago, back in the late '80s, there were only a few restaurants in the town that were open year-round," Di Domenicis said. "You can't eat fine dining every night, and at one point around here, that's all you had."

The chains only reinforced the notion that restaurants had to work to keep their prices down in this market, Blyth said. But through it all, restaurateurs say, they recognize that the need to provide excitement remains. Some have tried to create product with value and excitement by exploring themes, from Finbar's Irish attitude to a slew of restaurants that flaunt a faux-tropical ambience. Even family-friendly Rehoboth Avenue is now home to a Hooters.

Bigger ideas found more room to roam out on the highway. First came Grotto's Grand Slam, and in recent years, the beach has seen the arrival of lumbering places like the Tokyo Steak House & Sushi Bar.

The quest for excitement was also answered by a rising number of ethnic restaurants, which had not been a widespread beach phenomenon -- in recent years, vacationers have seen the arrival of Thai, Cuban, Chinese and Japanese cuisines.

"I think the public in general is trying new things," said Derrickson, whose Abstractions restaurant served Japanese fare. "What I see down here is all the new restaurants like mine or Confucius [a Chinese restaurant] are succeeding well because they're new and different. ... People really want to experience food in a different way, I think."

Just because people seek more value and less stuffiness doesn't mean beachgoers are willing to settle for the ordinary.

'"I think people are more educated about their foods," Paslawski said. "They tend to travel more, so they're more aware of different things."

Above all, they come to the beach to relax, and are seeking restaurants that help them achieve that simple goal.

"We don't need any other pressures," Derrickson said. "People just want to kind of cut loose a little bit.''

Alison Blyth serves Scott Tutak (left) of Rehoboth and Geoff Birkett of Avondale, Pa., at Go Fish! in Rehoboth.

Alison Blyth owns Go Fish! -- a British fish-and-chips-and-seafood shop near the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
an article about the first weekend for the beach.

Life's a (packed) beach
Even gas prices around $3 don't stop Memorial Day weekend fun

REHOBOTH BEACH -- It was the kind of early afternoon tourism planners dream of -- the sun was out, the sand was warm with a slight cooling breeze off the Atlantic and the beach off Rehoboth Avenue was packed.

There was barely room Saturday for Mike Miranda and Nina Filippelli to find a spot, catch the rays and enjoy the extra-long Memorial Day weekend.

"I used to go to Ocean City [Md.] until Mike brought me here," said Filippelli, who is from Baltimore. "But Ocean City can get too crowded. Rehoboth is a lot more relaxed and there are good restaurants here."

This year, Miranda, Filippelli and other folks hitting the beach will have more sand to enjoy, but there's a trade-off.

About 60 feet of beach between the shoreline and the boardwalk is off limits -- fenced off to let dune grass, planted as part of a state-federal beach replenishment project on man-made dunes, take root. But Miranda, of Crofton, Md., said he doesn't mind.

"I've been coming here long enough that I remember when you could walk up under the boardwalk," Miranda said. "But, it's a good thing. You don't have to go down steps anymore. You can walk right down the dune to the beach."

Despite gas prices around $3 per gallon, people were heading to the beach. There was a steady flow of traffic along Del. 1 through the morning and into the early afternoon.

In some cases, people used alternative transportation to make the trek.

Ken Iobst of Silver Spring, Md., had friends drive him over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the western edge of the Eastern Shore. He then biked the rest of the way to Rehoboth Beach for an annual family reunion.

"We like it because the beach is clean and because there's a good family quality here -- for any kind of family," he said. "This is a very open and accepting community."

Iobst and his relatives spent the afternoon under a big beach umbrella playing Yahtzee, rolling their dice into an upended Frisbee. It was an item that Stacey Iobst, who lives in Montgomery County, Md., said almost didn't make the trip.

"With the weather we've had the past couple of years, we almost forgot to pack it, but I'm glad we did. It's a perfect day," she said. "We really like it here. It's clean and family-oriented."

At Indian River Marina, folks were getting ready for an opening weekend on the waves.

Newark resident Joe Noble Sr. and his friends were gathered around his boat "Miss Donna," testing fishing lines for a Sunday bluefish tournament. Noble, an insulation contractor, spends his winters working so he can spend more of his summer on the water. And even with soaring prices for marine fuel, he says that's the plan this season.

"I work hard for six months and put in a lot of overtime over the winter so I can do this," Noble said. "Summer means no overtime, so I can enjoy this as much as possible."

Boaters, like Mark Somerville of Dagsboro, are coming up with resourceful ways to deal with the high price of gas. Somerville was working on his boat, the "Mara B," in the marina's parking lot, getting her ready for sea. He said he plans to buy gas tanks so he can stock up when prices are better.

"It's going to be tough this year," Somerville said. "You may not see as much activity on the weekends if there are 4- or 5-foot seas because that's hard on fuel economy. There may be more people coming down through the week if the seas are better. ... I've already told my family we might be floating [in the inlet] more this year."

But, like Noble, Somerville said he's looking forward to a summer on the water.

And it's not just Delawareans. A hearty group of boaters known at "The Pennsylvania Navy" were readying their boats for the water, too.

"It's a lot of work," said Randy O'Boyle of Allentown, who spends many weekends here with family members who live in the area. "There are some people with 'For Sale' signs on some of the bigger boats because of the fuel. But we like it and are going to be out as much as we can."

Somerville shared that sentiment.

"If it looks busy now," he said, glancing out on the marina and other boaters readying their vessels in the parking lot, "you should have seen it over the past couple of days. It's been a beehive of activity as people have come down to get their boats ready."

Visitors pack Rehoboth Beach on Saturday for the long Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer.

Visitors in town for the long Memorial Day weekend packed the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk Saturday.

Playing Yahtzee on the beach on Saturday are (from left) Wayne Iobst, Ken Iobst, Paul Iobst, Nathan Fraser, Adam Iobst and Stacey Iobst. The Montgomery County, Md., family was in Rehoboth Beach for an annual family reunion.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks to the moderators for renaming this. there are some developments going on in our small state worth discussing. places like newark, dover, the beach towns, and other places are also feeling the effect of condos, revitaliztion of downtown, etc. delaware's small enough that i think we could pull this thread off without getting too broad.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
a delaware institution is being sold. fortunately, i believe happy harry's will keep their name on the stores.

Drug giant Walgreen buys Happy Harry's
Keeping name part of 'transparent' change

The worldwide march of corporate consolidation will reach one of Delaware's most recognizable homegrown businesses this summer as Ogletown-based Happy Harry's drugstores merges with national powerhouse Walgreen Co.

The deal announced Monday is being hailed as a "transparent" change not likely to be noticed by Happy Harry's legions of local customers, but still revived the concerns that surface each time Delaware's cultural and commercial identity is reshaped by modern pressures. In years past, Delaware has seen the loss of such institutions as Wilmington Dry Goods, watched as local businesses gave way to national names, and most recently saw local banking giant MBNA bought out by Bank of America.

The leader of the privately held, family-run Happy Harry's said Delaware shouldn't expect the end of an era with the merger. "I actually see it as a beginning in a lot of ways," said Alan B. Levin, chairman and CEO. The Happy Harry's name will remain at all but the company's Pennsylvania stores, and the broad reach and corporate leverage of Walgreen might bring consumers such services as 24-hour locations.

"It wouldn't be surprising to me if they did" open round-the-clock stores in Delaware, Levin said.

The deal includes all 76 Happy Harry's stores in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, as well as its corporate office and distribution center in Ogletown. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Walgreen expects to continue accepting all prescription insurance plans taken by Happy Harry's, the companies said.

Some reductions are eventually expected in Happy Harry's work force of 2,700, of which 2,154 are in Delaware. Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen -- which runs 5,222 stores across the nation and generates more revenue than any other drug store chain -- may cut jobs at Happy Harry's operations in Ogletown, said Walgreen spokesman Michael Polzin.

Levin said he expects about three-quarters of the 200 office and distribution employees to stay on. He said any reductions that do occur will come gradually. Levin has signed a three-year contract to remain as chairman of what will be a Walgreen subsidiary.

Few changes expected

Most customers will see little difference at their local store, said Levin, whose father, Harry, and mother, Diane, founded the chain in 1962 in Brandywine Hundred. Since then, the chain and its trademark image of a smiling Harry Levin have spread north to Pennsylvania, east and west to New Jersey and Maryland, and south to Sussex County, where construction of three more stores will proceed as planned.

"It's a company that takes great pride in what we do," Levin said.

Levin said Walgreen's powerful presence and broad reach will mean greater convenience for Happy Harry's pharmacy customers.

Levin predicted a stronger company will emerge from the merger, due to be completed this summer.

"It was an opportunity to ... dictate terms to our benefit," Levin said.

It was Walgreen's largest acquisition in 20 years.

"Retail acquisitions are rare for us, but Happy Harry's presented a unique opportunity and is a solid strategic fit," said Walgreen CEO Dave Bernauer.

With seven stores in the Philadelphia area, including one near the Delaware border in Aston, Pa., Walgreen is the fourth largest drugstore chain in that market, according to the Drug Store Distribution Analysis & Guide.

However, the company has no stores in Delaware or Cecil County, Md., where Happy Harry's is the dominant chain.

That means Walgreen has no overlapping stores to close.

Customers left with questions

After hearing the news, some customers feared "the demise of a Delaware tradition." Some Delaware customers still see Walgreen, despite its size, as a relatively unknown commodity, with a reputation yet to be proved -- unlike Happy Harry's.

"Isn't Walgreens from farther west?" wondered Ann Gilliano, a longtime Happy Harry's customer in Dover. "I work with seniors and one of them told me about it. They love Walgreens, the prices are so much cheaper, but I never heard until it was mentioned in a conversation."

Others lamented yet another loss for Delaware's shrinking cultural identity and yet another homogenization of society at large.

"What is the world coming to?" customer Stacey Inglis-Baron of Fairfax wrote in an e-mail. "Delawareans embrace their Happy Harry's. We don't shop at CVS or other national discount mass-merchants. ... First MBNA, now Happy Harry's, next Wilmington Trust, or maybe the Hotel du Pont will become a Hilton property."

The sale has been under consideration for about a year, and was driven by the same economic realities that prompted consolidations among other regional businesses, from banks to insurers, Levin said.

"It really kind of started as more a less a response to their desire to come to Delaware. And I was talking to [Bernauer] and he and I have known each other for a while and thought we might have something to discuss. ... It didn't get serious until about four months ago."

A homegrown chain

The far-reaching local chain's modest beginnings go back 44 years, when Harry and Diane Levin opened a 600-square-foot shop called the Discount Centre at 1709 Marsh Road. "They did it together," Alan Levin said. "She was a buyer -- she used to buy all our jewelry and gift items. In addition to that, she used to handle the books early on."

Diane is still alive, but no longer has an active role. When Harry Levin died in 1987, he left Alan in charge of a chain with fewer than two dozen locations. By the end of the century and after years of expansion, few Delawareans could claim to have never seen Harry's smiling face.

Last year, Alan Levin said that his father was successful because of his love of people, his aptitude for dealing in a cash business and his entrepreneurial spirit.

"He'd shoot from the hip and nine times out of 10, he'd hit a bull's-eye," Levin said. "He loved cash. He had an innate ability to look at a cash statement and know how we were doing that day."

Levin wasn't always on the path to leading the family firm. He served as a deputy attorney general in Delaware and as an executive assistant and counsel to Sen. Bill Roth in the 1980s. But he said Monday's deal does not clear the path for a revival of his political career.

"Absolutely not," he said Monday. "Years ago I would have said yes. The further away from it, the happier I am.''

Not for sale

In 2003, Alan Levin declared that the company is not for sale, saying the chances were slim for a buyout.

"I like being responsible to the customers and to employees," he said at the time.

In today's retail environment for drugstore chains, a sale is now the best way to meet that responsibility, he said.

"What has changed has been the [insurance] reimbursements, [which] have changed dramatically. It has become more difficult to find pharmacists. And quite frankly, I wasn't willing to compromise on our service to our customers or our employees."

"It's harder to meet your expenses with the reimbursement we're getting now," and bigger chains are more willing to tolerate tight margins because it means the potential of increased market share, he said.

The merger is subject to approval by the Federal Trade Commission, which will check into potential antitrust issues raised by Happy Harry's regional presence. In the meantime, customers such as Dover resident Mary Schinck, who said she has relied on Happy Harry's for many years of prescriptions, look ahead with some uncertainty to a new future for an old friend.

"Hopefully, it'll be OK," she said.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
they're tearing down the balloon in newark to make way for condos. what will the kids do on thursday nights now?

i'm going to take a picture of the stone balloon tomorrow as they tear it down.

The walls come tumbling down
100-year-old Stone Balloon demolished for condominiums

NEWARK -- There was no ceremony or parting words.

Just the sound of the orange demolition machine as it began clawing into the wall of the Stone Balloon tavern on East Main Street.

A large crowd gathered Tuesday to watch the 100-year-old building come down. As the familiar walls crumbled, they snapped photos on their digital cameras and cell phones.

Owner Jim Baeurle will replace the tavern with a 54-unit project called the Washington House Condominium, as well as retail and office space.

Demolition could take several days. Construction is set to start in July.

"To me, the emotional part was on Dec. 17, saying goodbye to the staff and customers," Baeurle said before the demolition. "But now we turn the page and bring to Main Street what I tried to do for two years. The excitement outweighs the sadness."

University of Delaware students, residents and business owners had mixed emotions.

Travis Duke, 22, a UD senior from Wilmington, went to the Balloon every Thursday night for two years. His dad went there in the 1970s to watch George Thorogood perform.

"I'm upset," he said. "You can't really replace the Stone Balloon with condos. It was a one-of-a-kind type of place."

But Walt Charowsky, 66, who put down a deposit on a condo, said he can't wait to move in. When he first came to Delaware in 1971, he could never get into the packed bar.

"I finally get to get in," he said. "I like little towns where I can walk to get my newspaper in the morning."

Tish Chikotas, who spent 19 years as office manager at the Balloon, clutched the old credit card machine in her hands. "It's something for eBay," she joked.

The demolition site will be fenced and guarded to stop souvenir-seekers. Stone accents from the old building will be incorporated into the facade of its replacement.

"Whatever's left that is salvageable will be made available to the public at some later date," Baeurle said.

The Stone Balloon was opened by Bill Stevenson in 1972. Stevenson said he will miss his former stomping grounds.

"I don't think people will ever realize how much fun we had at this building," he said.

A giant claw rips apart a front wall of the former Stone Balloon tavern on East Main Street in Newark on Tuesday. Construction starts in July on the Washington House Condominium, named for the building's first tenant, a hotel.

Tiffany Koontz (left), 22, and Sarah Jost, 23, both recent graduates of the University of Delaware, watch as the historic building, once called Merrill's Tavern, comes down.


18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
a small article from late 2005 about the stone balloon. this gives a little insight to non-delawareans on how famous the balloon was.

With the December closing of the Stone Balloon, Delaware loses a part of its musical history

When Newark’s Stone Balloon shuts its doors for the final time on Saturday, Dec. 17, it will take with it the memories of more than 33 years of musical performances. But the stories, it seems, have a life of their own.

Founder and former owner Bill Stevenson remembers that sweltering August night in 1974 when a young Bruce Springsteen wouldn’t leave the stage. Elvin Steinberg, who took over the bar in 1985, recalls bumping into Ray Charles in his upstairs dressing room after Charles’ appearance that same year. Current general manager Tim Tully can still picture the 100-plus kids on the roof of what is now the Learning Station, all hoping to get a glimpse of Metallica when they played in 1989.

Today’s customers, many of them UD students, are too young to recall any of these shows. For them the Balloon has come to symbolize Thursday Mug Nights, long lines, overflowing toilets, and DJ dance parties. The thrill of discovering a new band on stage is long gone.

Current owner Jim Baeurle, 42, remembers when Train played the Balloon two years ago. Though it was a sold-out show, Baeurle says only 12 of the tickets were sold to students. “It’s a different kid that goes to the university now,” he states. “It’s a tougher school to get into, and [the students] don’t go out as much. When I went here we’d be at the Balloon three or four nights a week.”

Baeurle will be tearing down the Balloon and replacing it with condos. He says one of the main reasons he decided to close the bar is the lack of support for live music. “It’s dramatically less than what it was 10 years ago,” he says. “When I grew up, you followed a local band wherever they played, because you felt like you needed to support that band. That’s completely evaporated now.”

Baeurle says the immediacy made possible by downloading has also hurt business. “There are so many other ways to get music now,” he says. “People might like a song but they don’t want to invest anything in the band. They don’t even want the album—they just like one song. I can’t tell you how many albums I bought based on one song where I ended up falling in love with the band.”

Mastering the Middle Man

If Baeurle had been running the Balloon in the ’70s and ‘80s, he wouldn’t have had to worry about the fate of live music. It was flourishing, and the Balloon was the best place in Delaware to find it. National acts like Cheap Trick, Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, Robert Palmer, Dr. John, Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Average White Band, Canned Heat, and David Crosby all paid visits, while local bands like Jack of Diamonds, Dakota, and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers cut their teeth in front of packed crowds.

By the mid-‘80s, owner Bill Stevenson, who had run the bar since it opened in February 1972, was facing money troubles. He sold the Balloon to a group of local investors who attempted to transform it into a cabaret-style venue. The makeover didn’t go over well with customers and soon the owners were looking for a way out. They sold the bar to Elvin Steinberg, who quickly restored the Balloon’s reputation for cutting-edge music.

“Elvin Steinberg saved the Balloon,” says Stevenson, now 57, who had a major falling out with the investors. Among the acts Steinberg booked during his tenure: Ray Charles, Joe Jackson, Iggy Pop, Metallica, Joe Walsh, and Violent Femmes. Steinberg also was responsible for bringing in Love Seed Mama Jump, an energetic rock band that quickly won over audiences.

A key to Steinberg’s success during this time was his mastering of the middle agent structure. Middle agents would acquire tour schedules and identify gaps between dates, allowing smaller venues in nearby cities to score big names. For bands, it’s a chance to squeeze in an extra show and make more money.

In his new book, Stone Balloon: The Early Years, Bill Stevenson tells the story of how he almost got the Rolling Stones to play the bar because of this strategy. The band was looking for a nearby location to play a few songs the night before their Philadelphia concert in September 1981 and had contacted the Stone Balloon. Much like the Metallica show years later, there was to be no advertising or mention of the Stones’ appearance, or the gig was off.

The night of the show, Stevenson arrived at JFK Stadium early to meet the band. They were preparing for the following night’s performance, but a wind storm had kicked up, making their sound check impossible. Stevenson hung around for four-and-a-half hours trying to persuade the band to forget about their sound system and come to Newark. At 11:30 p.m., he realized it was a lost cause. “Every time I see something about the Rolling Stones, I think of what could have happened,” he writes.

A Step Up from Other Places

Stevenson writes that the Stones selected the Balloon because of the bar’s reputation as a first-rate rock club. It’s the Balloon’s definitive characteristic over four decades of presenting live music.

“There’s not a better gig in terms of crowd participation,” says Jefe, lead singer and guitarist in Burnt Sienna, a local cover band that started playing the bar in 1997. “A lot of places you’ll play, people are only into it at their own leisure. But at the Balloon, they know what to do from the get-go.”

Tommy Conwell, a former DJ on WYSP whose group, the Young Rumblers, was a popular crowd-draw in the late ‘80s, remembers how well the Balloon treated its bands. “Playing the Balloon was a big deal for a band like us,” he says. “It was a step up from most of the places we had played.” To show his appreciation for the local artists that have played the bar, Baeurle has invited Conwell and all five of the original Rumblers for a headlining performance on the Balloon’s last night.

The death of the club represents not only the loss of a local institution, but a loss for the area’s live music scene. Baeurle expects smaller Newark venues like East End Café and Deer Park Tavern to pick up the slack, but admits it won’t be the same on Main Street. “There’s definitely a void now,” he says.

—The Stone Balloon will hold a three-night farewell beginning with its final Mug Night on Thursday, Dec. 15. A “Newark Locals Goodbye” featuring a book signing with Bill Stevenson and a performance by Club Phred will be held on Friday, Dec. 16. On Dec. 17, the Stone Balloon closes its doors for the final time with “The End of the World as We Know It,” featuring performances by the Snap and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers. Tickets for Thursday and Friday are required and will be sold at the door. Tickets for Dec. 17 can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
Train takes the stage at the Stone Balloon, circa 2003 Photo by Rob Gibson

Behind the Balloon

Former owner Bill Stevenson booked Bruce Springsteen to play the Balloon in 1974 after being blown away by The Boss’s performance at New Jersey’s Stone Pony (though Stevenson says the bar itself was a dump). Springsteen was paid just $2,500—considered then to be a huge figure—for a show that lasted five hours and well past closing time.

Meatloaf, who weighed more than 300 pounds during his heavier days, required the use of oxygen tanks during several Balloon performances because of his breathing problems.

As he recalls in his book, Stone Balloon: The Early Years, owner Bill Stevenson had plans to seduce Pat Benatar when she played the club in 1980. Benatar, however, ended up getting engaged to one of her band members the night of her performance.

An unknown Jane’s Addiction opened for Iggy Pop during a show in the late ‘80s, but got booted after urinating on a wall and stage-diving in their underwear during Iggy’s set. They hold the distinction of being the only band that’s ever been kicked out of the Balloon.

During Metallica’s legendary 1989 show, a crowd surge knocked down the metal railings near the stage, leaving exposed nails near the pit. Remembers Tim Tully, who was a doorman at the time: “We had to send all the bouncers and bartenders down there so nobody would get impaled.”

Before Eddie Murphy's musical performance in the early ‘90s, former owner Elvin Steinberg was surprised to see him hanging out inside the Balloon. After a closer look, Steinberg realized it was actually Eddie’s brother Charlie (of Chapelle’s Show), who was busy playing pinball.

Months before Cracked Rear View took off and sold 12 million copies, Hootie & the Blowfish played the Balloon to an audience of about 20 people and were paid just $600.

George Clinton and his P-Funk band were notorious for stealing. Prior to a performance a few years ago, current owner Jim Baeurle was warned by D.C.’s 9:30 Club to lock up any valuables. “We secured everything,” says Baeurle. P-Funk still managed to break into the Balloon’s phone line and run up nearly $400 in long-distance calls.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
demolition is in progress. i took these pictures this evening.

here's a small rendering of washington house, the condo that will replace the stone balloon. it's a midrise that will have 54 units i believe. the front of the building, which will face main street, is facing the lower left corner in this rendering. the condos will stretch back all the way to delaware avenue.


18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
A couple other developments in the state:

The Promenade at Middletown, a mixed use development downtown which will contain low-rises and mid-rises. Retail will line the sidewalks in downtown Middletown, and condos will be on the floors above the retail.

Luxuary condos on the riverfront in Milford. The Mispillon River waterfront has been neglected, and this will turn the riverfront into a more desirable location. The devlopers want to take advantage of the small-town feel of Milford (it is a small town, after all), and will make the condos tie into downtown Milford. A walking path will go over the river and through a proposed nature preserve, aloowing people to walk from the condos to downtown.

Dover is also seeing some developments. A convention center has been suggested, and it would host Delaware State basketball, as well as a minor league hockey team if possible. Some midrises are also proposed for Dover, and I even know of one that will begin construction on Lockerman Street soon (can't remember the name, though; "____an Plaza").

644 Posts
I give thumbs down to the Stone Baloon demolition. I really wish the new project would somehow incorporate the century old structure into the new building. Its just sad to see such a delaware landmark go.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
the facade is being incorporated into the new condos. they've torn down everything they wanted to tear down, and have left only the very front of the building.

the worst part about seeing the balloon come down is that there's one less bar in newark for the college kids, and one of the better ones at that. the new kids will never experience a mug night on thursdays. preserving the facade is nice for historic reasons, but it would've been even nicer to see the balloon still around so that ud was just like it was when i went to school there (2000-2004). the stone balloon was a dump, but it was our dump. (i said this same exact thing when the vet came down a couple years ago).

i'll have to stop by in newark and take a picture of the balloon as it sits now. i drove by it a couple nights ago, but i didn't have my camera and it wouldn't have turned out as nice since it was dark.

2,257 Posts
xzmattzx said:
the facade is being incorporated into the new condos. they've torn down everything they wanted to tear down, and have left only the very front of the building.
Sounds like a great blend of "old and new". I'm sure this project will definitely turn some heads.

18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
MasonsInquiries said:
Sounds like a great blend of "old and new". I'm sure this project will definitely turn some heads.
unfortunately, the rendering up near the top of the page isn't too big, so you can't see the facade incorporated into the building. in fact, it doesn't even look like they put the facade into the rendering.

here's a picture of a rendering, which was hung up on the stone balloon sign outside of the building.


18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
They have now torn down everything they wanted to tear down of the Stone Balloon. All that is left is the stone facade from the Washington House Tavern that existed a hundred or more years ago.

From this in November:

To this yesterday, June 16:

I'm going to miss the Balloon.


18,914 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
renovations to rehoboth beach's downtown and main road are complete.

Rehoboth dedicates downtown
Merchants happy 4-year revitalization project is over

REHOBOTH BEACH -- With the dust settled, the mud puddles evaporated and the sun shining in a cloudless blue sky Friday, Rehoboth Beach officials were more than ready to cut the ribbon on the city's new downtown business district.

The trauma of four winters of construction and the stresses of finding the money to complete the $34.05 million downtown revitalization left Mayor Sam Cooper temporarily at a loss for words.

"What a glorious day," he said, over and over. Then, as the words came back: "It's been a long time coming."

Area merchants couldn't have agreed more.

"We're thrilled to death that the project is almost over," said Trey Kraus, the owner of Carlton's, a Rehoboth Avenue clothing store. "I was just reviewing some old photos ... the difference is extraordinary."

Kraus said although his business suffered during the construction, the end result provides much more space for pedestrians.

"We're really excited about the future ... the architectural details ... really set this downtown streetscape apart," he said.

The project has been a decade in the making, starting when Rehoboth Beach Main Street, the nonprofit downtown association, urged city officials to undertake a revitalization of the central business district.

Even before that, city officials repeatedly talked about burying the unsightly tangle of overhead power lines that hung over Rehoboth Avenue.

Cooper said city officials repeatedly asked for price quotes on burying the utilities but were always stopped by the expense. But with a massive downtown revitalization, city commissioners also decided it was time to upgrade the infrastructure of Rehoboth Avenue, he said.

"I'm still awed with the view without the power lines and poles," Cooper, a lifelong native of Rehoboth Beach, said.

He said he looks at this project as a once-in-a-lifetime retrofit that should keep the city current for the next 50 years. The last time the city underwent a significant renovation of Rehoboth Avenue was when the railroad tracks were removed from the center of Rehoboth Avenue, he said. That was sometime after 1928, when passenger train service ceased in the city. Train tracks down the center of Rehoboth Avenue still appear in a map of Rehoboth Beach from 1938.

Gone with this project are the overhead utilities, the mature crab apple trees in the center of Rehoboth Avenue, the hundreds of individual parking meter posts and the old concrete bandstand -- built in the months after the destructive March storm of 1962. The new streetscape starts with a traffic roundabout at the main entrance to Rehoboth Beach complete with a replica of the old Cape Henlopen lighthouse in the center. The view to the ocean is almost unobstructed. The individual meters are replaced by specialized, digital meters every few feet. The crab apples have been replaced by smaller trees.

An open pavilion, with seating that faces the ocean, takes the place of the old concrete bandstand.

On Friday, as the project was dedicated, the Cape Henlopen High School Jazz Band had the honor of being the first to play in the new pavilion. Their opening number was "The Star-Spangled Banner." Once the dedication was over, they played big-band favorites that harkened back to the days when Rehoboth Beach was the fashionable resort for Washingtonians and the late Sammy Ferro's big band played nightly at the old Henlopen Hotel a few blocks to the north.

The streetscape project started in September 2002 with breaks each summer. For many merchants, the most arduous part of the massive job came in October 2004, when work started on the final two sections from Second Street east to the boardwalk.

By some estimates, businesses that stayed open during the fall, winter and spring construction period saw business fall off by as much as 28 percent.

And last year, city officials were worried that the final phase of the project would not be finished because of state funding shortfalls.

Cooper gave special thanks to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., for his help securing federal dollars to complete the work.

"Without you, we would have been sitting here with our thumbs somewhere, I guess," Cooper said.

State transportation officials provided $16.3 million for the project, the city paid $10 million and the federal government provided $7.75 million, said Carolann Wicks, state secretary of transportation.

Carper said although Rehoboth is known as the Nation's Summer Capital, "we really haven't had a boulevard worthy of that."

The improvements changed that.

"Wow!" he said, as he looked over the finished project. "What a boulevard. What a street."

Citizens attend the dedication ceremony Friday for Rehoboth Beach's new downtown business district. The project cost $34.05 million.

Scott Rafferty of Virginia Beach, Va., attends the event many people have waited for years to occur.

Officials cut the ribbon at Friday's event, but funding concerns had some worried last year that the project wouldn't be completed.
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