Last sunrise for Dolle’s sign on Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

If things go as planned, 60-year-old icon could find new home on museum façade
December 15, 2021

After nearly 60 years of overlooking the northeast corner of Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk, the historic Dolle’s sign was removed Dec. 15 from its perch in Rehoboth Beach.

Established in 1926 by Thomas Pachides and Rudolph Dolle, Dolle’s Candyland has been in Rehoboth for nearly 100 years. It had been at 1 Rehoboth Ave. and the Boardwalk since 1927. 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 had been a Rehoboth landmark ever since.

Dolle’s Candyland owner Tom Ibach, the third generation of his family to run the business, announced last December he was moving Dolle’s to his Ibach’s Candy by the Sea storefront at 9 Rehoboth Ave.

“There are mixed emotions. I never thought I would see this, but here we are,” said Ibach, watching the crew from Rogers Sign Co. begin to get their trucks and personnel in place. “It’s sad to see it go, but I’m glad to be getting done with it.”

The morning of the removal was about as good a morning as possible for mid-December – temperatures in the 40s to begin, sun and little wind.

Milton-based Rogers Sign Co. installed the sign decades ago and they were tasked with removing it. They brought four bucket trucks and a number of workers to get the job done, which required taking a grinder with a cutting blade to five back supports and six upright supports. Taking a work-smart, not work-hard approach, getting the sign from perch to flatbed took roughly two and a half hours – the first cut was made at 9:15 a.m.; around 10:15 a.m., with the slightest of wiggles, the last of the back supports was cut loose; liftoff took place around 11:35 a.m.; soon afterward it was nestled in cribbing on the back of a flatbed.

Throughout the morning there was a crowd – hundreds of people stopped to watch at one point or another. There were no fewer than four drones, four television crews, three newspapers and a helicopter documenting the sign’s removal.

Rehoboth Beach Police Lt. Jamie Riddle was operating two drones for the police department – one for taking photos and video, and one that had a heat sensor in it to make sure the roof didn’t catch fire while sparks flew from the grinder as it cut through the poles. The crew from Rogers Sign could be seen moving a piece of plywood around to help catch some of the sparks as workers went from one pole to the next.

Ibach wasn’t the only person watching with mixed emotions on the sign’s removal.

Local photographer and filmmaker Judy Rolfe was on hand from beginning to end. She was there documenting the removal as part of the Vanishing Rehoboth series she’s working on.

“To some people it’s just a sign, but to me it’s emblematic of everything that’s going on,” said Rolfe.

Carolyn Theim brought her twin 6-year-old daughters – Claire and Lydia – before school for one last photo of the sign.

“We have all kinds of pictures with the sign, but I couldn’t remember if we had one with them, so I decided to come down real quick,” said Theim.

There were months of speculation about who would be the iconic sign’s new owners, but the Rehoboth Beach Museum has agreed to take and preserve it for future generations. The museum board has said it would like to mount the sign on the western façade of the building, but it needs to get variances approved by the city’s board of adjustment first.

There’s a lot of emotion associated with this sign, said museum Board President David Mann, moments after the sign was placed on the flatbed. The sign can be hung on the side of the museum building, but the museum has to wait until the board of adjustment hearing, he said.

Mann said there were brief discussions about putting the sign on the roof of the museum, but those ended quickly after the team from Rogers got up there and evaluated the situation. One area of the roof has the HVAC system, and the other area of the roof is above the museum’s irreplaceable collection, he said.

“If a storm came, and ripped the sign and roof off, all of those items would be lost. That wasn’t an option,” said Mann.

A Rehoboth Beach Board of Adjustment meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 27, during which the museum will make its case. In the meantime, the city, which actually owns the museum building, has agreed to keep the sign in one of its storage areas until a permanent location is found.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was first posted the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 15.

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