Oy Vey! That’s good chicken salad
It amazes me that so many local businesspeople have no clue what that big blue wet thing is at the easternmost end of Rehoboth Avenue. They’re so wrapped up in selling condos, running their stores, offices or restaurants that they simply have no time left to appreciate the sandy rewards of resort living. But in spite of her 70-hour weeks behind the counter at Lori’s Oy Vey Café, that is not the case for proprietor Lori Kline. “Life is short,” she smiles.
When she arrived here at the beach, opening a restaurant was the last thing on her mind. But she did it so she could stay here at the beach. Her refreshing take on life is summed up in her scholarly philosophy on the risks of owning a business: “Oy vey … what’s the worst that could happen?!”
Lori Kline’s degree in social psychology and her years of working in a mental hospital made her perfectly suited for operating a restaurant in a resort town. After graduating from Frostburg State University in 1989, she worked for about three years at Chestnut Lodge Psychiatric Hospital in Rockville, Md. After a short stint as the fitness coordinator (she looks the part, too) for Rockville’s landmark Jewish Community Center, she found her niche as a teacher for learning-disabled children at The Chelsea School in Silver Spring, Md. Though she loved it, she also loved to escape the relentless congestion of Montgomery County by fleeing to Rehoboth Beach.
At 29, she spent a summer living here. Several weeks into her dream vacation, she got bored and took a job at Cuppa Joe, a tiny coffee shop tucked away in the CAMP Rehoboth courtyard on Baltimore Avenue. Suddenly she was home. She finished out the year with her students, resigned her teaching position, sublet her Wheaton, Md. home, bought a Jeep, and while still running things at Cuppa Joe, became the assistant manager of Rehoboth Guest House. Lori freely admits that she was dead broke, living at the guest house as part of her compensation, eating her meals at the carryout, and funneling her funds into the Jeep payments.
At the beginning of summer ‘97, she acquired the little carryout from former owner Kenneth Jacobs. She took up residence on a powerboat in Dewey Beach and spent 80 hours per week doubling the size of the restaurant and putting her own Oy Vey stamp on the place. “I knew I could do it, thanks to my friends and family.” Part of that Oy Vey-ness is her self-proclaimed “Chicken Salad to DIE for,” laced with toasted almonds, apples, and a secret ingredient that you’ll have to discover for yourself. Every tchotchke and piece of furniture (even the logo on her window) is a gift to her, and her fans are always willing to pitch in. Beware! She might recruit you to run the register if things get really busy.
Lori continued to work in the off-season. She was a substitute teacher in Sussex County, lathered up pooches at Dirty Dogs and peddled blooms at Windsor’s Flowers. She even considered opening a second Lori’s, but unless cloning becomes an outpatient procedure, the place simply cannot be duplicated. “Every year I open these doors, I’m grateful,” she says. I warn her not to downplay her interminably long hours, abandoning her life in another city, living on a boat, and working year-round to make the business what it is today.
She hasn’t forgotten why she chose to make Rehoboth her home, and now, after her 18th year, she’s finally keeping her off-season months to herself, when she can be found walking (or running) on the beach and strolling the Boardwalk. She’s finally living the dream she worked so hard to create. When I remind her that she should take more credit for her hard work, she shrugs and says, “I figured out what I wanted early in life and I went for it. I started with nothing, so I had nothing to lose.”