Three years after Delaware restaurateur and humanitarian Matt Haley’s unexpected death, the Rehoboth Beach-based company he founded is still thriving.
Bluecoast Rehoboth is SoDel Concepts’ tenth restaurant. Located on Route 1 in southern Delaware, it’s a spinoff of SoDel’s flagship seafood restaurant in North Bethany of the same name. That Bluecoast was opened by founder Matt Haley in 2001.
“I’m big on nostalgia and I’m big on honoring those who have come before us,” said Scott Kammerer, who took over as CEO three years ago after Haley died in India on a humanitarian mission. “I’m really excited that we could make a place that I feel like Matt would be really happy and he would want to hang out here, and he would really look to us and say, ‘You guys did a really good job.'”
Kammerer and Haley met serendipitously on the steps of a church in 1999. Both battled with addiction and were fighting for sobriety. They hit it off right away.
“Looking back on it, meeting Matt that day really changed the focus and the direction of my life,” Kammerer said. “He helped me be very self-aware, and look within myself, and try and be a better person and change the way I was looking at the world and doing business.”
Together, the business partners opened seven more restaurants all in Delaware beach towns, between Lewes and Fenwick Island. The more the business grew, the more they gave back to the community. Haley’s good deeds in Delaware and around the world earned him the James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2014.
“He had incredible dreams and vision and I had the ability to follow through and carry out things. So we were a good combination in a lot of ways and Matt always was willing to take chances, and was never one to back down from a fight and that’s one thing this company has really inherited from him,” Kammerer said.
And that sticktoititiveness is paying off. What began as a small company preparing 37 dinners on its first night now cranks out 30,000 meals a week in the summertime with a thousand employees on the payroll.
Kammerer and his team also inherited Haley’s penchant for doing good. SoDel Cares was founded in 2015 to continue Haley’s mission of helping those in the communities where SoDel Concepts does business.
In its two years, the nonprofit has given well over a $100,000 to local organizations that help kids, the elderly and those coming out of prison, among others.
“I think that we’ve grown into a company that people can be proud of, that people can be proud of working here,” Kammerer said. “We spend a lot of time trying to make beautiful, simple food, we spend a lot of time developing the people we work with and we spend a lot of time trying to make the world a better place. And that’s really what the foundation of this company is, and that’s the foundation of what Matt really wanted this company to be.”
Kammerer said growth is in his company’s DNA, and that he could see SoDel Concepts growing into a regional and national level player in the culinary world. That said, he’s perfectly happy with where things are now.