One of the defining sights in Rehoboth Beach is the big orange Dolles sign that sits atop the salt-water taffy store of the same name. It's been there for well over 50 years. In late 2020, after a rent dispute with the building owner, Dolles has moved just a few doors west to 9 Rehoboth Avenue, the space occupied by Ibach's, also owned by the family.
So the tradition of good caramel corn and taffy continues, but as of this update, the fate of the sign is, well, up in the air. Keep an eye on RehobothFoodie.com as the drama unfolds. The sign might stay, and it might not. We'll see.
There is no more iconic landmark in Rehoboth than that International Orange sign. It has been photographed, painted, etched, sketched and filmed more than any other single object in Rehoboth Beach, except perhaps for the ocean.
Dolle's has graced that magical corner since 1927. It has weathered hurricanes, nor'easters, and the ripping up of the Boardwalk. During the storm of '62 the 3,500 pound taffy-pulling machine plunged through the floor and into the wet sand. With the help of several tow trucks based at what was then seven gas stations located on Rehoboth Avenue, the heavy machine was dredged up out of the muck and is still in use today. It is sort of sad that it is now in the Ibach's location and not dominating the Boardwalk with the walk-up windows and cases overflowing with popcorn, but it's better to have that caramel corn and taffy than not. I left some of the photos of the original location in the gallery for your perusing pleasure.
The Dolle's tradition started in Ocean City, Md. In 1906, native New Yorker and carousel builder Rudolph Dolle and his wife, Amelia visited the up-and-coming seaside resort of Ocean City, Maryland. Four years later, they returned to Ocean City to open an amusement business near the corner of Wicomico Street and the Boardwalk. In 1910, Mr. Dolle was given the opportunity to purchase a fledgling salt water taffy business located next to his hand-carved family carousel. And thus an Eastern Shore tradition was born.
The story of the Rehoboth location begins in 1927 with a partnership between Rudolph Dolle and Thomas Pachides, a candymaker in Philadelphia who had run a luncheonette and chocolate shop. In 1959, Pachides bought out Dolle’s interest in the business; retaining the Dolle's name. In 1991, Ibach’s Candy By the Sea went into business just a few doors down on Rehoboth Avenue, and Tom Ibach, Pachides grandson, now owns the Dolle’s candy and chocolate empire. Pachides' daughter, Helen, ran the Beach Luncheon on the Boardwalk near Dolle's from 1955 to 1972, devoting her life to Dolle’s. She retired in 1995.
The Ibach family has run the business since 1984, when Tom's grandfather died. Ibach maintains that the secret to Dolle’s success is the location and the quality. Customers can watch the fudge or candy being made and it's obvious that it's fresh and local. Pachides did not write his recipes down and Ibach still regrets that loss. But Ibach still has plenty of old family recipes and candy making experience to fall back on. “I can figure out a lot of stuff,” he said. “But it is a little more complex than people think. All the formulas are different. You don’t just throw a few things in a pot.”
Dolle's1/5 Dolle's2/5 Dolle's3/5 photo courtesy Arlene Carmel4/5 Photo courtesy Arlene Carmel5/5
The most popular chocolates continue to be the chocolate-covered pretzels and nonpareils. Peanut butter taffy is still the favorite taffy flavor, although chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are also big sellers [I love to alternate the orange with the chocolate. Try it! R.F.] Dolle’s has offered a dozen flavors of taffy for at least three decades. The Ocean City location is not associated with the Rehoboth location which has become an integral part of the community.
Caramel Corn. Salt Water Taffy. Candies. Chocolates. Gummies. Peanut Brittle. Popcorn. All sorts of new caramel corn, including cinnamon. You get the idea. By the way, the caramel corn will last forever (not that it has ever been required to do so) if you seal it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. Now get on down there and get some orange, chocolate and peanut butter taffy pieces and a barrel or two of caramel corn. Y'never know when you might need it.
Special thanks to an article written by writer Michael Short for Coastal Sussex which filled in some of the historical blanks.