Rebranding transforms a Frogg into a prince
There’s only a handful of local dining and drinking establishments that have been around for 30 years or more. The Blue Moon, Back Porch Café, Robin Hood, Dolle’s, Ibach’s and the Captain’s Table, of course. Two Seas and the Starboard in Dewey Beach (though the Starboard started with a different name), and don’t forget perennial pizza pundits Louie’s, Nicola’s and Grotto. I’m sure I’ve forgotten somebody, so set your computers on “stun” and fire away. I can take it.
But there’s another Rehoboth landmark that has slipped on and off the radar screen over the years. Could it be because of its old reputation as a biker bar? Or maybe the buzz that it caters exclusively to women? Well, the Frogg Pond, between Rehoboth and Wilmington avenues on First Street, was indeed all of these. And maybe sometimes it still is.
But business partners Pete Borsari and Dave “Byrd” Bickel are working hard to give this Frogg just the right kiss to turn it into a prince. Not too much of a prince, mind you, but just princely enough to be a destination for homemade food and lots of nightly fun. As “The Pond” approaches its 30th anniversary, Pete wants to hit that milestone running. “You can’t sit still in this town,” he says. “You have to evolve with the times.”
Plymouth Rock native Borsari purchased The Pond in 2002. His Virginia law firm kept him quite busy, and he believed it when they told him that his Rehoboth investment was a “turnkey” operation. That’s like having a child and being assured that you’ll only have to look in on it once or twice a month. A string of inept managers finally resulted in his moving here full time in ’03. It was obvious that the child needed daily - even hourly - attention.
The next few years saw a series of renovations that made it even more popular with, yes, bikers, women - and the women who love them both. But that sort of exclusivity - indeed, any sort of exclusivity - can lead to disaster in today’s economy. “We had to evolve with the times,” insists Borsari. “We love and value our faithful patrons, but we need a wider appeal to survive.” Pete saw his opportunity when the under-new-management Rehoboth Ale House became the new magnet for the ladies. It was the perfect chance to expand The Pond’s clientele. “I will not tolerate anyone who won’t accept that Frogg Pond is a diverse establishment. There’s something here for everybody.”
Original barback “Byrd” Bickel had been in and around the Philadelphia food biz since he was 12, and he bought into The Pond in ’06. He’s a little shy, but to the point: “I’ve always been a glutton for punishment.” He and assistant kitchen manager Bruce Galm Jr. work the line every day to bring new tastes to the landmark joint. Certified Angus burgers share the menu with turkey burgers and even a couple of black bean patties.
Bickel’s recipe for BBQ ribs is a big hit, not to mention his fajitas and made-right-there-on-First Street soups, chili and clam chowder. Those of you who are particularly excited about the turkey burgers should skip the next three sentences. You can also get fried Oreos and fried Snickers at the Frogg Pond. They’re delicious. Just sayin’….
To describe Pete Borsari as a “hands-on” owner would be an understatement. He personally books the entertainment, including the ubiquitous Viki Dee, Mama’s Black Sheep, Pete Wiedmann and who the heck knows who on karaoke and open mic nights.
Thursday is trivia night, hosted by none other than Borsari himself. “I love it. I come up with irreverent questions while I’m driving,” he smiles. Lifelines and unauthorized Googling are strictly forbidden. Enthusiastic teams include The Village Idiots, The Know Nothings, Driving the Bus to Hell and The Trailer Park Boys - just to name a few. And trust me; irreverent doesn’t begin to describe it.
Locals and visitors are beginning to see Rehoboth’s old Frogg in a different light. It may never be a prince, but Borsari says it best: “We’re making it a fun place to go, to have a good time and leave happy.” Sounds princely enough, I think.