Cape Gazette
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The Business of Eating

Plenty of room at the Hotel Rehoboth... Any time of year... You can find it here

By Bob Yesbek | Jun 18, 2013
Photo by: Bob Yesbek Keith Martin and his family strive for casual elegance at the Hotel Rehoboth.

It all started with a little gas station near the corner of Rehoboth and Lake avenues where Catchers Restaurant is now located. Keith Martin’s grandfather operated a taxi service from there, and in the late ‘50s he opened Peg’s Diner just one door east. Peg was his wife, and the little diner eventually became the Homestead Restaurant, specializing in breakfast and lunch. When the Martins decided to extend their hours to include dinner, they renamed it Oscar’s Seafood to highlight their skill with oscar-style preparation of meats and seafood topped with crabmeat and asparagus. They eventually closed Oscar’s, and the space became home to the fledgling Purple Parrot, which remained there until around 2004.

In the meantime, their daughter Peggy (born in Rehoboth) and her husband Bill (a Lewes native) gave rise to young Keith, who eventually married Sherri. Alongside the restaurant were several small stores, including a cute little place called Mostly Irish. In 1994 the Martins built the Comfort Inn on Coastal Highway and sold it in 1997. They loved downtown Rehoboth and watched with great interest as the little beach town slowly morphed into not only the Nation’s Summer Capital - but also a burgeoning culinary mecca for vacationing foodies up and down the East Coast.

And along with those foodies came the need for additional places to stay. The off-season was becoming shorter and shorter as Rehoboth’s fall festivals and events drew larger crowds; increasing the demand for high-quality lodging. Keith elaborates: “Rehoboth needed more rooms, and my parents, Sherri and I wanted a facility to compare with longtime landmarks like the Bellmoor, the Avenue Inn and the Boardwalk Plaza.” And thus, in 2008, was born the Hotel Rehoboth.

The classic style and sunny color of the building have already made Hotel Rehoboth a landmark in its own right. The Martins’ goal was casual elegance, and their 52 rooms are decorated to evoke sun, sand and the sea, accented by muted yellows, blues, creams and golds.

Interestingly, this description could just as easily apply to the restaurants owned and operated by Matt Haley’s SoDel Concepts. A sense of austerity, with white walls that allow the artwork, decorations - or panoramic outdoor views - to stand on their own, pervades each of Haley’s eateries. When he saw Hotel Rehoboth being built, he approached the Martins with his dining concept: Italian-themed recipes using local ingredients, dished up in simple yet elegant surroundings. And thus was born Lupo di Mare on the hotel’s lobby level.

The other retailers on the first floor seem to share the overall feel of the property, including the perpetually clever and unexpected Mod Cottage (where do those guys find all that cool stuff!?) and the equally elegant Cleo’s boutique, offering upscale clothing for women. Hotel Rehoboth is also known for its two beach shuttles that scurry about, whisking guests to dinner in the evening and to the beach during the day.

Keith speaks reverently about the hotels, restaurants and retailers in Rehoboth Beach. “We’re all in this together, and without all of us there wouldn’t be business for any of us,” he explains. He’s looking forward to the opening of Joe and Megan Churchman’s Bramble & Brine House just a few doors west, and he’s also happy to be one of the gathering spots for the popular downtown restaurant tours operated by EatingRehoboth.com.

It’s fun to put a face on various businesses in town. Getting to know Keith and his mom Peggy has given me even more respect for the local entrepreneurs who step up to the plate and make Rehoboth Beach an even better place to visit - and to live.

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