When Sam Calagione opened Dogfish Head in 1995, the business thrived through personal interactions between his staff and the customers. He says hospitality has been the key to success ever since and opened doors to expand the Dogfish name.
His latest venture is one that will fully immerse the brewery's rabid fan base into a complete Dogfish experience – the Dogfish Inn. Opening in late spring 2014, the 16-room motel will place guests in what is now the Vesuvio Motel in Lewes, equal distance from the brewpub in Rehoboth and the brewery in Milton.
“We know we get over 1,000 people in our tours at the brewery every week; half of those people come from out of state,” he said. “Some of them are not coming for day trips. We saw an opportunity to expand the hospitality component of our business.”
While it's geographically suited for Dogfish, Calagione said, it's perfectly placed for guests to enjoy all the beauty Delaware has to offer, from the natural beauty of the ocean and bay to the historic nature of Lewes.
“We've already got great excitement from the Department of Tourism, Delaware Economic Development Office and the Governor's Office for this project,” Calagione said. “And we're excited to work with the local agencies as well because we're very confident that this motel will bring a lot more business not just to Dogfish but to the other local retailers and restauranteurs in Delaware.”
Dogfish has teamed up with Studio Tack in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Lighthouse Construction in Magnolia to design and renovate the property. Much of the planned design will be kept under wraps, but Calagione said the motel will definitely have the Dogfish flair.
This isn't Calagione's first foray into the hotel/motel world. About a decade ago, he partnered with the Inn at Canal Square in Lewes to create the Brewmaster's Suite.
A room at the inn was renovated to incorporate a library of beer books, Dogfish soap and shampoo, a CD library of bands who have played at the brewpub, Dogfish beer in the fridge and Dogfish artwork on the walls.
Calagione said he is excited to bring Dogfish to Lewes.
“John, the current owner, and his family have done a wonderful job,” he said. “I commend them for their long time in business and keeping it local and family owned. Dogfish's intention is to keep it local and family owned for many decades to come.”
In preparation for next year's opening, Dogfish is searching for an off-centered innkeeper. Details are available at www.dogfish.com/careers.
About the Vesuvio
It's almost fitting that Dogfish is purchasing the Vesuvio Motel. According to a 2001 volume of the Journal of the Lewes Historical Society, the property at the intersection of Savannah Road and Gills Neck Road was home to a tavern house and motel through much of the 19th century. It was converted to the Atlantic Hotel some time between 1852-1856, and was destroyed by a fire in May 1870. It wasn't until 1973 that the corner was used again, when the Juliada Motel was erected. The name changed to Vesuvio Motel in 1977, when it was purchased by Gennaro Iacono.