For more than a half century, one noteworthy sight has loomed over visitors to the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach.
It’s the big orange Dolles sign that sits atop the salt-water taffy store of the same name. The sign was erected in 1962 when Dolles was rebuilt after a three-day storm destroyed much of the boardwalk.
But next summer the landmark will be gone from its customary perch, and could disappear forever from the oceanfront.
That’s because the 25-year lease for Dolles Candyland is up. Owner Tom Ibach said his landlord raised the rent beyond his means, so he’s moving the salt-water taffy mecca to his other candy store three doors away.
The fate of the fluorescent sign remains up in the air, Ibach told WHYY on Monday.
“It’s an emotional thing, obviously, because I grew up here,’’ Ibach said. “There’s nothing really you can really do about it. It’s a business thing and I think they want to sell the property.”
That’s unwelcome news to Carol Everhart, chief executive of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce. She says the pandemic ruined tourism this year and the loss of the Dolles sign “is one more thing to cry about. You just can’t express enough sadness that it will no longer be here.’’
But hold on.
Mayor Stan Mills says he will work with city commissioners and legal staff to see if there’s a way to get a variance from town sign and height restrictions. That way Ibach could relocate the famous sign to a perch above the new store.
Mills said a decision could be months away, but agreed the sign is one of Rehoboth Beach’s historic spots.
“That sign is iconic,’ he said. “What we are known for is our wood iconic boardwalk, and when you look at a dozen photographs of Rehoboth Beach a number of them will be of the Dolles sign in the background.”
After expressing her lament, Everhart was delighted to hear there might still be hope.
“If we can keep the sign, it might be a little bit of a different location, but that would be wonderful,’’ she said.
Ibach said that if city commissioners don’t grant him a variance to move the sign less than 100 feet, he’ll likely re-erect several miles north at Dolles’ new candy production facility on Delaware Route 1 near Lewes.