Year-round residents are at home with Dewey Beach’s ebbs and flows

By Mary Ann Benyo  Photographs by Carolyn Watson
From the April 2017 Issue

dewey A Town for All Seasons - Delaware Beach LifeYou’ve seen Dewey Beach at the height of summer. An extraordinary number of people populate the town — the dog walkers at dawn, families toting young ones to the beach mid-morning, retirees enjoying restaurants in the evenings and the flood of college students and other young people thronging the bars and spilling onto the sidewalks in the wee hours.

But what about the other seasons? And who are the locals that get to call this place home for the entire year, who so fiercely believe its motto that “Dewey Beach is a way of life”? Only a few hundred hardy souls occupy this sometimes precarious strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Rehoboth Bay — essentially a sandbar just a mile and a half long — and they are a surprisingly diverse group.

One of them is Phil Winkler. After retiring as a sergeant first class from a 20-year Army career, he started his own business as a database analyst, another pursuit from which he’s now (mostly) retired. Having vacationed in the area for decades, Winkler moved here full time almost three years ago. He and his West Highland white terrier share their Read Avenue cottage with girlfriend Ellen Blocher and her golden retriever.

Then there’s Christina Solloway, who works during the school year as an instructional assistant at Rehoboth Elementary School and — in spring, summer and fall — at the Shark Shack selling T-shirts and such outside The Star­board restaurant. This single mom had been raising her four children in a townhouse at the ocean end of Read Avenue, where they lived from 2002 until circumstances changed and the family had to relocate several months ago. They now live two streets outside Dewey.

Right in the middle of the high-season action is Jeremy Vietri, who rents an apartment at the corner of Dagsworthy Avenue and Route 1. After the Wilmington native graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in business, he returned to Delaware six years ago and has tended bar at Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill for the last five.

And with perhaps the most cumulative time in Dewey, Kay Miller lives above The Little Store with her husband, Ken, and their giant schnauzer. She’s been summering here since 1962, and for more than three decades she and Ken ran the store each summer, then returned to their teaching jobs in Maryland. Having spent most of the last decade here after retiring from the latter in 2005, they finally decided to stay year-round. This is their second spring in Dewey.

No matter how, when or why they came to this little seaside town, each of these residents has unequivocally declared, “I love it here.” Here’s a season-by-season sampling of life in a special place.

 

Mary Ann Benyo, a longtime Delaware resident, is a frequent contributor to Delaware Beach Life.

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