Boardwalk Plaza lets its hair down at The Point

May 26, 2011
Tom Gross, Jennifer Zerby, Steve Cobb (standing) and John DelVecchio make a point of welcoming you. BY BOB YESBEK

Most people celebrate their anniversary by going out to a nice dinner - maybe even throw in a movie just for fun. Not so, however, for Jeff and Jennifer Zerby, owners of the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel and Victoria’s restaurant. From the chatty birds in the lobby, to the tuxedo-clad doorman, to the ornate multi-tiered restaurant, it’s obvious that the Zerbys do very few things in moderation.

So instead of dinner and a movie, Jeff and Jennifer celebrated Boardwalk Plaza’s 20th anniversary by buying one of the most visible pieces of property here at the beach: the triangular “point” of land where Rehoboth Avenue and Coastal Highway meet.

The building had been a coffee shop in the past, but the Zerbys admit that they really didn’t know what they wanted to do with it when they bought it. They did know that (1) they wanted a contrast to the straitlaced veneer of the hotel, (2) it made business sense to increase their visibility and presence in Rehoboth Beach, and (3) they wanted a place, in Jennifer’s words, to “let their hair down,” away from the formality of Victoria’s.

And thus, on July 9, 2010, The Point Coffee House and Bake Shoppe was born. It’s a testament to the dedication of the Zerbys’ employees that The Point opened its doors barely 30 days from the day they bought it. Even after they opened, Boardwalk Plaza food and beverage director Steve Cobb and professional baker John DelVecchio spent their nights painting and setting up the kitchen and food preparation areas. Even Executive Chef Mike Subach (a five-year veteran of Victoria’s restaurant) chipped in his talents to help make The Point a reality. A day doesn’t go by that Steve and John don’t make multiple commutes between the two locations, delivering sweet delectables, artisanal breads and exotic coffees to the hotel.

Jennifer says that The Point has become “what the hotel coffee shop would be if we had one.” Cakes, pastries and desserts at Victoria’s are whipped up fresh at The Point. Some of the coffee served at the hotel is roasted there. Boardwalk Plaza diners merrily nosh on DelVecchio’s freshly baked bread. And wait ‘til you try the donuts, sticky buns and made-to-order waffles. You can imagine how painful it was to research this article.

When they decided to open a coffee shop, the Zerbys envisioned it as sort of a “Cheers” experience, “where everybody knows your name.” That mission is taken seriously by the perpetually cheerful and effervescent Tom Gross, manager of The Point since December. (I want some of whatever this guy has in a Thermos under the counter.) Every time I’ve dropped in - the egg, ham and cheese croissant is a perfect excuse - Tom is most certainly the master of ceremonies. You simply can’t help but feel welcome there.

This isn’t any of these guys’ first rodeos. In 1990, Steve Cobb opened the massive Princess Royale hotel and condos in Ocean City, Md. as food and beverage manager and assistant general manager. John DelVecchio is a professionally trained baker who owned and operated a bake shop in Fenwick Island. He joined the Boardwalk Plaza group last June. He also shares his considerable skills by teaching continuing education at Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury, Md.

Tom Gross owned a catering company in Florida’s uber-tony Las Olas area of Fort Lauderdale. As the former catering supervisor for Country Clubs of America, he was eminently qualified to serve as manager of the banquet department at Rehoboth Country Club. The Point is certainly lucky to have found this spirited guy.

The first thing you see when you walk in is a mountain of bread, flanked by vegetables, crispy snacks and little spiral-bound cookbooks. A coffee roaster the size of a Chrysler is reflected in a glass case filled with pies, éclairs, cannoli, biscotti and who knows what else.

By the way, my introduction to The Point was the chocolate cake with the ricotta cream filling and a cup of high-octane Kenya AA coffee. Now I know what Tom has in that Thermos.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.