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Dolle’s sign installed with quick capital campaign

Katie Tabeling

The Dolle’s Sign was installed at the Rehoboth Beach Museum at the end of June. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE REHOBOTH BEACH MUSEUM

REHOBOTH BEACH — Capital campaigns are usually on many nonprofit’s minds to create something that not only benefits their community, but also serves as a monument as the love that donors have for its cause.

But the Rehoboth Beach Museum’s campaign to install the Dolle’s sign is not just a testament to Sussex County’s affection for the beach: it’s about the visitors who came to its sands.

Within six months, the museum of the beach town’s history raised more than $35,000 from 250 donors from across the nation. The Dolle’s sign, which was removed in December 2021, was re-installed on the west side of the Rehoboth Beach Museum late last month.

“This was really a no-brainer for us, because we knew how much the community wanted to preserve it,” Rehoboth Beach Museum Executive Director Nancy Alexander told the Delaware Business Times. “The visibility of the sign, the memories it represents, really expanded our reach, so it helped expand our fundraising campaign’s reach.”

The Dolle’s sign was removed from 1 Rehoboth Ave. at the end of 2021 at the cost of roughly $10,000. Reinstallation, completed by Rogers Sign Company, was valued at $20,000. The sign weighs roughly 3,700 pounds, but a specialized bracket system helped it withstand 125 mph winds in the past.

The Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, which manages the museum and the city’s archives of the past, told city officials last winter it would be willing to launch a fundraising campaign to bear the cost.

And, much like it did in the past 60 years, the Dolle’s sign beckoned to the visitors that long walked the boardwalk.

“This was a very different response to other campaigns. Before, we’ve had friends and [historical society] members donate before, but this had touched a wider community, it was done faster,” Alexander said.

While the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society maintains an email list of 2,900 people, the long-running news about the sign’s future kept the campaign fresh in people’s minds. Social media was also a tremendous boost, Alexander added.

In all, there were 100 new donors in the combined 250 donors in this campaign. Amounts varied from $1 to $5,000.

“Some people didn’t know about the museum, and many were just excited about preserving the sign and asking to help. It’s a dream project really, because it’s really an iconic look,” she said. “When you Google Rehoboth Beach, you see the Dolle’s sign.”

The Rehoboth Beach Museum is also raising money for a new HVAC system, which is not as romantic as maintaining a piece of advertising that has been in the backdrop of thousands of pictures of the boardwalk. But Alexander believes the sign, which faces the bridge over the  Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, will help raise the visibility of the nonprofit.

“It’s definitely something that can leverage interest in the museum. I’ve lived here for 25 years, the first time I saw it driving over that bridge, it really took my breath away. It’s really a gorgeous sign,” she said.

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