After nearly 100 years at 1 Rehoboth Ave., Dolle’s Candyland in Rehoboth Beach is moving.
In an interview Dec. 19, owner Tom Ibach said the lease on the property expires Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. He said Dolle’s will move roughly 100 feet to the west and be a part of Ibach’s Candy by the Sea.
Established in 1926 by Thomas Pachides and Rudolph Dolle, Dolle’s Candyland has been in Rehoboth for nearly 100 years. It’s been at 1 Rehoboth Ave. and the Boardwalk since 1927. In 1959, Pachides, Ibach’s maternal grandfather, purchased Dolle's interest in the business. The original building, an old YMCA, was destroyed in the Storm of ‘62, but it was rebuilt with the huge orange Dolle’s sign, and has been a Rehoboth landmark ever since.
Ibach said he’s moving because the landlord has asked for double the rent and it didn’t make fiscal sense to stay. He said he thinks the landlord increased the price so much because they are more interested in selling the property than signing another long-term lease.
The lease terms were just not going to work, said Ibach, taking a break from stuffing boxes of taffy.
Ibach grew up in Wilmington, but he’s spent pretty much every summer of his life at the store. He said there are mixed emotions about leaving, but he thinks it will be a better situation financially because there will be less wasted space and fewer staff needed to operate.
“It’s one of those things. Six months or a year down the road, you realize you end up doing the best thing for you,” said Ibach. “It is what it is. Things will always work out.”
The production portion of Dolle’s is also located off the Boardwalk, but in another property to the north as part of the Beach Treats location. He said the lease for that space is for another year, and there’s a five-year option he plans to renew, but ultimately the plans are to move the production facility out onto Route 1, near Steamboat Landing Road.
“This is a high-rent district, and a space can’t just be used for production. It’s got to be generating revenue,” he said.
As for the Dolle’s sign, Ibach said he plans on taking it down. He said there’s an agreement in place to allow for the sign to be up through the end of 2021, but he doesn’t want to keep it up at the old location if he’s not there.
“I won’t leave it up. It’s misleading,” he said.
Ibach said he would like to move the sign to the new location, but isn’t certain it will be allowed because it’s grandfathered. That sign was put up before the city had rules regulating signs and it’s totally illegal, he said.
“It would be nice to be able to move it,” said Ibach, who is very aware of the sign’s stature. “It’s so iconic. Every picture of Rehoboth Beach has that sign in it.”
Ibach said this past summer was a struggle because he had trouble finding help after international students weren’t allowed to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’ve worked five straight months without a day off,” he said.
Ibach said there’s a small amount of renovation needed at the Ibach’s store to facilitate what Dolle’s has to sell, but he doesn’t expect much time between when the lease ends and the new operation begins.
Ibach’s landlord is a family member
According to Sussex County's online property mapping application, the owner of the Dolle's property at 1 Rehoboth Ave. is Dolle's Realty Inc., which has a mailing address for a home in Henlopen Acres. According to the same mapping application, the owner of that home is Signe Murray, who is Ibach’s cousin – Ibach’s mom and Murray’s mom were two of three sisters given equal control of the property by Pachides.
This isn’t the first time the two cousins haven’t seen eye-to-eye on the prized property. According to a Cape Gazette story from 2005, after the death of a third sister, Constance Brinkley, Ibach, his sister and their mother, Alexandria Ibach, filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court claiming Murray and her mother, Helen Holgrem, were attempting to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of the Ibach family.
At the heart of the dispute was how Brinkley’s third of the ownership should be distributed. Murray’s attorney argued a 1996 change to Brinkley’s will wrote Alexandria out of the family business. The Ibachs’ attorney argued Brinkley drafted a change to her will in 2004 revoking the previous change. However, Brinkley died before signing the change.
Ultimately, Murray was given control of the property, while Ibach was given the licensing rights to the Dolle’s name.
Murray could not be reached for comment.
Petition started to save iconic Dolle’s sign
A petition to save the iconic Dolle’s sign on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk has been started. The move comes days after the Cape Gazette first reported Dolle’s Candyland would be moving from its Boardwalk location and the iconic Dolle’s sign would be coming down by the end of January.
For more information on the petition, go to change.org and look for Dolle’s Candyland in the search bar.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.