Beyond the Dover Speedway: Business is back on Rt. 13 (video)

    (<a href=Open sign via ShutterStock)" title="l_businessopen16x9" width="640" height="360"/>

    (Open sign via ShutterStock)

    As big name retailers move into vacant lots along Dover’s heavily traveled Route 13, smaller businesses are benefiting.

    There’s a revitalization of sorts happening along Route 13 in Dover. Several big name businesses are moving into vacant retail lots.

    According to Dan Wham, a commercial real estate agent with DSM commercial real estate, regional and national chains are starting to take note of the heavily traveled stretch of Route 13.

    Sitting among those well-known businesses are two local business owners who have weathered the economic downturn of the past years. The retailers credit their success with being proactive.

    John Zimmerman is president of Jen-Mor Florist Inc. Zimmerman’s father started the business, located on Route 13, in 1971. He is hopeful about passing the business down to the next generation of Zimmermans. “I have nieces working here now and I have grand daughters who come here on the weekend with my daughter.”

    With new businesses moving into Dover, Zimmerman is hopeful more customers will be headed his way. “Every day or every other day we have someone stop in that’s never stopped in before. They say I always wanted to stop by or I didn’t know you were here,” Zimmerman said.

    Over the years, Zimmerman has had to make some changes to compete with the big name stores and adapt to today’s shopping trends, which include more phone and Internet orders. He also purchased a brightly colored digital sign to announce specials, but feels walk-in traffic remains the same because of the ease and convenience of the Internet.

    But customers like schools and churches that order from him several times a year are who he considers to be his regulars. He says those regular customers know his store can provide something the big box stores can’t. “We sell quality and service. You’re not going to call Walmart and get a dozen roses delivered two hours later.”

    Dale Teat of Earle Teat Music had to be strategic to stay visible during Dover’s retail recession.

    “We moved out of downtown Dover because stores went out of business. There were empty vacant stores all over the place. We moved into the Blue Hen Mall in 1984. It had Woolworth in there. It had JC Penney. It had Radio Shack. It had a lot of big businesses in the mall. In 1995 we moved out of the Blue Hen Mall because the same thing happened there. In 1995 we moved to a shopping center, which is where Home Depot is now and in 2000 we decided to buy on the highway in this location that we are right now.”

    Teat, who owns a second store in Delmar, says the exposure he’s gained by being on Route 13 has been very beneficial. He says it also helps that his customers prefer to come into the store to touch and listen to the instruments.

    He too sees the growth occurring on Route 13, and believes Delaware’s distinction as a tax-free state attracts businesses of all sizes. “The no sales tax is a big deal. That is something that Delaware seems to try to hold on,” Teat said.

    As more stores continue to move in along Route 13, the owners of both Earle Teat Music and Jen-Mor Florist Inc. stand ready to ride the latest business wave to hit Dover.

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