Despite a few more rainy days than usual, stakeholders in Dewey Beach say summer treated them well.
Sharky’s Grill owner Rick Shindledecker said he had his best year since 2007. “I saw people this year I haven’t seen in five or six years,” he said.
Shindledecker said he started seeing more construction workers coming into the restaurant in February, and he got an inkling the season would be more profitable than previous years.
This summer, he said, customers told him they had either shortened their getaways the last few years or skipped vacations altogether. “There might have been a lot of pent-up demand,” he said.
Shindledecker said after talking to customers he does not think the economy has improved, but that people simply needed to have some fun this year. He also said the abundance of rain helped business. “We had some bad weather this year, but it didn’t seem to hurt,” he said. “If I complain this year it would be out of greed.”
Bil Joseph, who works at Su Casa on Bellevue Street, said the summer would have been better with less rain. “Every weekend had a rain day,” he said.
Joseph said business was down slightly from last year, but he also noticed many first-time visitors from New Jersey, Maine and Connecticut. “I’ve seen a lot more families,” he said. “We’ve seen our share of college kids too.”
“We had good summer,” Joseph said.
The Starboard owner Steve Montgomery said he spoke with visitors from New Jersey over Memorial Day weekend, who said they were in Dewey Beach for the first time. “They would tell me, ‘We heard it was a great town but had no idea how much fun it truly was,’” he said.
Montgomery said business this year was strong, and he saw more children and families in town than ever before. “The rain during May and June surely didn't make the start of the season terrific, but July and August were as good as any,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery also said the relationship between businesses and town hall was smoother. From parking issues to signage to pedestrian and public safety, businesses and town officials are working together – something that has been lacking in recent years, Montgomery said.
Town Manager Marc Appelbaum said parking revenues for the summer are up 20 percent from last year.
Seasonal parking permits sales were down 3 percent, bringing in $269,000 to last year’s $278,000, Appelbaum said. But daily permits more than made up for the loss, with a revenue increase of 51 percent, he said.
Parking meters brought in $163,000 compared to last year’s $125,000 – a 30 percent increase, Appelbaum said.
Countdown to Memorial Day
By the afternoon of Sept. 2, most tourists were already fighting northbound traffic on Route 1. A few straggling visitors and some year-round residents peppered the quiet beach.
On Carolina Street, resident Darrell O’Connor spent most of the day building his annual “farewell to summer” sandcastle – a tradition he said he started about 10 years ago.
The castle this year read, “Farewell summer 2013. Two-hundred and sixty-six days ‘til Memorial Day.”
O’Connor said the castle took him about four hours to build. When it was finished, residents and longtime visitors to Carolina Street greeted O’Connor and took photos of his annual masterpiece.
The sandcastle suffered a beating in the late afternoon, when a rainstorm passed overhead. Despite the downpour, O’Connor said he and about 20 other beachgoers stuck around for the last lifeguard whistle of summer at 5 p.m.