Murat Tan: Success not guaranteed; giving up not an option

Two years ago, Rehoboth restaurateur opened, then closed on the same day because of COVID
March 4, 2022

Story Location:
Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine
208 2nd Street
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

With everything that’s changed in the past two years – I’m writing this the morning my kids returned to school maskless for the first time in a while – it’s hard to remember those feelings of COVID-related hysteria in the early days of 2020. Of all the things that happened at that time, the stuff-hitting-the-fan moment for me was when Gov. John Carney issued the order closing restaurants March 16. I remember that mandate’s date so clearly because it happens to be my birthday. No, we did not get in one last in-person dinner before the government-ordered closing time of 8 p.m.

Murat Tan has similar remembrances of March 16. Like every other restaurateur in the state, Tan closed his restaurant, Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine in Rehoboth Beach, that evening at 8 p.m. Unlike any other restaurateur, he had also just opened his restaurant for business that same day.

“So much has happened. It seems like so long ago. It’s a birthday,” said Tan, laughing while sitting in the restaurant’s dining room that faces Wilmington Avenue.

Recalling the days before opening, Tan said he and his staff had been getting food ready for a week in preparation for the opening.

“There were rumblings that the governor might do something, but we didn’t know it was going to be the night we opened,” said Tan. “I didn’t think it was a possibility.”

Even without COVID looming, Tan said he had pre-opening nervousness. The building has good visibility, and he said he was confident the restaurant was going to have good food with good flavor, “but it’s still an ethnic restaurant in Sussex County.”

A veteran of the restaurant business – he owned and operated Beach House and Lewes Pizza – Tan began to reevaluate the business immediately.

“As soon as I locked that door, I began to think about what was next,” he said.

After a restless night of little sleep, Tan said he came to the restaurant March 17, unlocked the door and moved on. Delivery and takeout had not been part of the original plan, but the restaurant had to adapt accordingly and go with it, he said.

“Success was not guaranteed, but giving up was not an option,” he said. “I was paying the business to keep the doors open. Nobody knew who we were, and we hadn’t had a chance for people to be able to find out.”

Two years later, the restaurant is still open. It wasn’t easy, said Tan, who credits his daughter Yasemin, a core group of staff and loyal customers with making it possible.

Tan is cautiously optimistic about the coming summer. Things have been on a steady incline, but that can all change quickly, he said.

“Every day there is something new. That’s the best thing about this business – there’s always something new,” said Tan. “You either make it or you don’t.”

Joke of the week:

As explained in the first Choppin’ Wood a few weeks ago, my brother Adam had a weekly joke for the papers my parents published in Maine. He still lives up there. We have seen him in Maine over the past two years, but he recently made a quick visit here for the first time since before COVID. When told he and his jokes were mentioned in the first column, he responded with, “I can still remember the first joke I ever ran.” So here it is:

Q: What do you call a dog with no legs?

A: It doesn’t matter. It won’t come anyway.

  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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