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The history of the Seaside Country Store begins around the time of the great storm of 1962, a Nor’easter that caused a lot of damage in Delmarva. Around that time, Earl and Ada Tingle put in a gas station, Pure Oil, on Byer street which is the current parking lot of Sea Shell City. Around that time, Bette, their daughter, was married to Dave Bates. The four of them bought the Seaside Motel on Coastal Highway between Houston and Indian street. While Earl ran the gas station, and Betty and Dave ran the Motel, Ada needed a project and pushed for the creation of a store in Fenwick Island. Since Dave grew up in an orphanage up north as a child, the Seaside Country Store was built in the tradition of a New England country store in 1969. Dave was an avid collector of Antiques, which decorated the Seaside Motel at the time. So, Dave saw an opportunity to bring his Antiques across the street and collected even more items. The Seaside Country Store official opened in May of 1970.
The original store was much smaller than it is today with only one room on the first floor and a small upstairs room at the top of a staircase. To speak in modern day store lingo, just the food room and the room we know as “Upstairs Gifts” are original. Original to the store is the cheese counter, which when the store first opened, sold Vermont Cheddar. Hams hung above the counter brought up from Harrisonburg, Virginia thanks to Bette's brother Edward. The store, while much smaller, had penny candy and all kinds of unique gifts. Some popular items included candles and homemade quilts while less popular items included scented manure (for your indoor plants). Upstairs is where Dave housed his many antiques. There were buggy benches, antique bottles, oil lamps, wash stands, and oyster plates to name just a few items you could find. Mostly locals staffed the store include Norma Hohmeier, Bette’s sister and her daughter Amy Hohmeier (who began working in the store at the age of 10). Community has always been important to the owners of the Seaside Country Store. When the store was built, they tried not to infringe upon the niches of the other businesses in Fenwick Island. So, the Seaside Country Store didn’t sell Sea Shells and beach items at the time because Sea Shell City and the Sea View Beach Shop did. In the same turn, other businesses didn’t sell hams, candles, and antiques because the Seaside Country Store did.
The business grew and became a popular beach destination for many. After a few years of running three Fenwick businesses, Bette and Dave sold the motel so more attention could be focused on the store. The Seaside Country Store, as it appears today, was expanded in the mid 1970’s. The Bath Shoppe, Ladies Boutique, and the gift shoppes were added to the first floor. The antiques section upstairs was expanded to include clothes and bathing suites. It was loving called, “Wheels of Fashion,” because the displays were made from antique wagon wheels. Christmas items were added upstairs with the expansion as well. Two apartments were built on the third floor of the store so Bette and Dave could live in one while Ada and Earl occupied the other. The selection of the food room was expanded around that time to include the fudge kettle, which Dave began making before letting Amy take over and make fudge with him.
Over the years many different items have come and gone through the store. Hams gave way to ice cream which gave way to salsas. As fashions changed, the store did as well. The store used to sell a much larger selection of fashions including all sorts of bathing suites, bathing caps, bikinis and even lingerie. There were displays of Crock Shop pottery from California, stoneware, and bar ware at one time or another as well. There was a time in history of the store when Bette made and sold coral arrangements and flower arrangements too! As Earl and Ada aged and declined, Bette and Dave needed to spend more time taking care of them. Amy got the opportunity to take the store over for Bette and Dave. They trusted her to carry on the store, since she had worked there for over 20 years and it gave them an opportunity to keep the store in the family. Bette and Dave continued working in the store in different departments even after they had sold the store. Dave continued growing the antiques section until the turn of the century. In 2000, Ada, Earl and Dave all died in the same year.
Amy married Stephen Vickers around the time she bought the store from Bette and Dave. Over the past twenty years Amy and Stephen increased the inventory tremendously with the help of Lori Bennett, who has managed the store for almost as long as they have owned it. Having come from a background of retail with her own mother, Lori has encouraged the growth of the store with her wonderfully creative eye and energy. Over the years, the lady’s Boutique section has been refined to “Lady’s Beach Casual” and the Antiques section of the store has given way to more nautical items. The Seaside Country Store sells more cheese and fudge today than ever before. Stephen brought his advertising background and expertise to the store and has increased the scope of the business, reaching more people through advertising than ever in the store's history as well. Amy and Stephen both believe that conserving energy and recycling are extremely important ways of being environmentally conscious. They believe they are doing their part by installing solar panels on the roof of the store and by putting in recycling dumpsters for the large amount of cardboard that the store goes through on a daily basis. Amy and Stephen have raised two children, Max and John, in, around, and above the store. Throughout their childhood Max and John worked in the store, much like Amy did when she grew up. You can still find Bette stopping by the store to say hello and John comes back several times a week to make cheese. Three generations and 40 years later, the small family business began by Bette, Dave, Ada and Earl is still very much alive and well in the hands ofStephen and Amy Vickers.
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