On the last Saturday before Labor Day weekend, the line at Jack Lingo Realtor's Lewes office for vacation rentals was four deep. Some were turning in house keys; some were picking them up, and many wanted to make sure they'd have their place in the sun next year.
That's become a tradition, according to realtor Rick Zimmerman. "A lot of people who are checking out now are already reserving houses for the summer of 2018," he said. "On top of that this was probably our best year ever."
That observation syncs with those shared by Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carol Everhart, who reported hotel occupancy well above last year's. She also noted more visitors appeared to come from places as far away as New York and Canada. Once again, she noted, the Boardwalk was a big draw for Rehoboth visitors, while Dewey also attracted visitors who enjoy both ocean waves and activities ranging from sailing to jet-skiing to paddleboarding on Rehoboth Bay.
Still, the summer brought some challenges: High temperatures. Lots of rain. And for some businesses, a slow start.
"We looked at our June revenues and planned for a slightly slower season but ended up being pleasantly surprised," said Lauren Roming, who has owned the Pelican Loft for 20 years. That meant being more selective with the eclectic mix of vintage and reproduction home goods offered at the Rehoboth Avenue store. "It was a good year for us I think, because we're well established and offer so many unique items."
Longtime restaurateur Matt DiSabatino is also happy with the way the summer of 2017 shaped up for Striper Bites, Half Full and Kindle, all located in Lewes' historic downtown.
"I heard things were hectic at the restaurants out on the highway but the vibe in Lewes was calm even on the really busy days," he said. "As always we had a lot of families because we offer a wide selection of entrees, salads and sandwiches, which gives folks a lot to choose from."
Laura Swisher, a marketing representative for Blackwall Hitch in Rehoboth, described that restaurant's second summer in businesses as a great time, with a steady volume of customers and a deepened sense of connection to the community.
"We love the summer crowds, but being part of the year-round scene is what Blackwall Hitch is all about," she said. "We look at September as a time to celebrate the beginning of what we call local's season."
DiSabatino shares this appreciation for the upcoming off-season as a time to slow down and appreciate the area's year-round activities and the people who are a part of them. "One of the best things about the restaurant business is the community we live in, and all of the friends we've made among our customers and our staff," he said.
"Summer was good, and I think the fall is going to be great," he said.