The Little Store in Dewey Beach will reopen this spring under the management of Jeremiah’s Beach Party proprietor Jason Fruchtman, who noted both stores are celebrating their 40th anniversaries.
Before the pandemic, owners Ken and Kay Miller decided not to open The Little Store in summer 2020, but to enjoy retirement in the apartment above the ocean-block grocery and convenience store they operated seasonally for nearly four decades.
Kay grew up in Dewey. Her parents operated the old Southwinds Motel and Redwood Lodge, and bought their Read Avenue home, the second house from the ocean, in February 1962, just before the most destructive nor'easter ever to strike the mid-Atlantic.
“Next month, the storm hit, and the house by the ocean went into the sea,” Kay said. “A boat went through the front door of our house, which filled up with two feet of sand, anchoring it. It was the only thing that saved our house.”
Many people contacted the Millers about renting The Little Store, Kay said, but Jason was the perfect fit. The families have been friends for decades, so they trusted him to continue to provide the same level of service that kept her customers, who also became friends, returning year after year.
“We’re living upstairs so we had to feel comfortable with who was down there,” Kay said. “I foresee my husband going down early in the morning to serve the coffee.”
Jason’s father Marc Fruchtman opened the original Jeremiah’s, a record store in Wilmington, in 1980, before Jason was born; the store is named after Jason’s older brother. Marc opened a couple other locations, including the one in Dewey in 1990, which outlasted them all. When Jason took over the store 15 years ago, the music industry was digitizing, leaving little need for physical retail space.
One section at a time, Jason began replacing music CDs with beach items on store shelves until he sold the last of the CDs on two tables outside the building. Also an art teacher at Cape High, Jason has long designed and created T-shirts he sells in-house. The store also has a tiny market, and it sells mostly beach gear like swimsuits, clothing and toys.
“We’re known for our huge rafts,” he said with a smile. “We used to be open just three months a year; now we’re closed only three months a year.”
Jason said he likes to stay open on the weekends in the off-season to provide jobs for local kids, who spend the downtime restocking, changing up the inventory and preparing for the next summer.
When the Millers initially asked Jason if he wanted to rent the property, he declined.
“But the more I thought about it, it made a lot of sense, because I used to send people down there for stuff we didn’t sell,” he said. “Everybody all summer long last year asked about The Little Store.”
Jason says he’s shooting for a spring opening, and will keep the same name and products.
“We’ll have a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’ll let it evolve into whatever it becomes. They [the Millers] put so much heart into that place, we’ll try to keep it going.”