Dewey’s Surf Shanty expands footprint into motel business

Former Bell Buoy Inn on Van Dyke Avenue gets top-to-bottom, beach-vibe renovation
July 6, 2023

Story Location:
The Surf Shanty Motel
21 Van Dyke Avenue
Dewey Beach, DE 19971
United States

Sitting in a small office filled with supplies for rooms, Rebecca Fluharty said it seems obvious now, but she and her business partners Rhett and Cindy Ruggerio were having trouble coming up with a name for their new motel in Dewey Beach. Then, all of sudden, it was clear, she said.

“We were like, ‘Let’s make it an extension of The Surf Shanty,’” said Fluharty. “With the original business just around the corner, the two go really well together. It allowed us to have the amenity of a beach store without having to include it within the footprint of the motel.”

Located on the ocean block of Van Dyke Avenue, the Surf Shanty Motel is three stories with 15 guest rooms and a two-bedroom apartment. The Ruggerios opened the Surf Shanty on Route 1 in Dewey in 2017.

Built in 1976, the motel was the decades-long home to the Bell Buoy Inn. The business partners purchased the building in late November 2021, gutted it, refreshed everything from the inside out, and opened in May of last year, said Fluharty.

“It’s old-school Dewey with modern amenities. The idea was to keep things clean, simple, fresh and bright,” she said.

The color scheme is classic white, with teal and orange – guest room doors are teal with orange light fixtures on the outside; first-come, first-served bikes for guests are teal and have orange locks; the concrete parking blocks are even painted in the motel’s trifecta of colors.

“Painting the parking blocks was Rhett’s idea,” said Fluharty, laughing.

A couple months into the second season, Fluharty said the motel is beginning to gain traction. With a 90% occupancy rate through June, it’s been a great summer so far, she said.

Fluharty said it’s operated in the style of Airbnb. There’s a manager to help guests as needed, but each room has an electric lock so guests can check in without having to go to the office first, she said.

“It’s a hands-off approach, which people like,” said Fluharty.

The approach seems to be working. Recently, in mid-June, the motel was mentioned by travel website Time Out as a fun place to stay in Dewey Beach. The two-block-wide town, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Rehoboth Bay to the west, was fourth on a list created by the website of the 10 most underrated places in the United States to stay this summer.

It’s pretty cool, said Rhett, on the recognition from Time Out, in an email June 23.

For more information on the Surf Shanty Motel, 21 Van Dyke Ave., go to or email


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