The beach resorts have evolved right along with Washington—upscaling, expanding, retooling. We asked Tom Ibach, a third-generation owner of the seemingly eternal Dolle’s taffy shop in Rehoboth, about the changes he’s seen on the boardwalk.
How long have you worked here?
I started working full summers when I was 16. I did everything—mopped floors, cleaned, made taffy, made caramel corn.
What do you do now?
I still do everything—wrap boxes, paint the walls. I’m not so big on waiting on customers; I had enough when I was younger. The crowd has gotten so much more demanding than it used to be.
How’s the taffy made?
We use the same recipes that my grandfather did. We used to make 18-pound batches—now we make 70. But it’s the same ingredients: corn syrup, sugar, vegetable fat, water, salt. The most important flavor is peanut butter. It’s vanilla taffy with peanut butter in the center.
Anything else the same?
The original Dolle’s was built around 1927—it was totally destroyed in the storm of March ’62. The long taffy machine we still use went down into the sand. They pulled it out with a crane and took it to Jack Dick’s Gulf station down the street, got it all cleaned up. My grandfather had the store open again in July.
What has changed?
It’s a different crowd. On Sundays, men used to wear coats and ties and hats; women always had dresses on. The crowd itself has changed—it’s a lot more diverse. You see all kinds of folks in here now.
Do you like living at the beach?
I live outside Rehoboth. It’s too expensive inside.
This article appears in our July 2015 issue of Washingtonian.