[caption id="attachment_215228" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] The Dolle's Sign has been a Delaware icon since the 1920s. A replica of the 1960s-era sign, the sign seen today cost $20,000 in 2002. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
REHOBOTH BEACH — The fate of the iconic Dolle’s sign that looms over the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk has yet to be decided, as city officials are debating whether to hold onto a piece of local history — and whether the price is worth paying.One sign company based in Milton may play a key role in determining the Dolle’s sign’s future: Rogers Sign Company.The company has been designing signs all over the Delmarva region since 1972, but also handles electrical signs and custom vehicle, boat and traffic sign lettering. In the almost half a century that Rogers Sign has been in business, major clients include fire companies all over the state and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the marquee signs at the Movies at Midway in Lewes, Bethany Blues, the Meoli Companies’ McDonalds, Atlantic Liquors and more.But perhaps its largest claim to fame is the Dolle’s sign that dominates the Rehoboth Beach skyline today. Rogers Sign Company was contracted to replicate the original sign and install it for $20,000 in 2002 after a nor'easter tore it down. That same job may be worth $40,000 today, due to current pricing, the company estimated.“I like to do a freestyle rendering of my signs, a rough doodle to just get a first look. But with Dolle’s, we had the benefit of laying the old sign down and making a template from rigid cardboard to scale it,” said Lynn Rogers, owner of Rogers Sign Company. “The sign you see is the exact size of what fell on the boardwalk.”Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills and the city commissioners agreed on Sept. 8 to conduct a feasibility study with Rogers Sign Company on relocating the Dolle’s sign that must leave its longtime location by the end of the year. Grotto’s Pizza bought 1. Rehoboth Ave. for $6.2 million after the landlord raised the lease price so high that Dolle’s owner Tom Ibach opted to move the iconic operation.For almost a century, Dolle’s Candyland has been on Rehoboth Beach’s boardwalk when Philadelphian candymaker Thomas Pachides opened a storefront. The original Dolle’s sign was made by an unknown contractor in 1927 and stayed for decades until the storefront was destroyed in the Storm of 1962 that besieged Sussex County for two days in March.Dolle’s was later rebuilt, and the wooden sign, framed with raw steel angle, was repaired and reinstalled. The sign survived another storm six years later, but it was finally blown down, face-down on the boardwalk during a storm in February 2002.“It was so badly broken, it was like a puzzle. It took days to piece it back together,” Rogers said.Rogers Sign Company was tasked to recreate the sign, under strict stipulations from Rehoboth Beach city officials that it must be the same size and font. Rogers said he and his team worked with the city’s Building and Licensing Department inspector from start to finish.“The funny thing was that the salt air ate the steel away but the wood held up somewhat,” Rogers told the Delaware Business Times. “Anchoring to the roof was important [to the city]. It was decided to replace the word Dolle’s with aluminum, PVC, aluminum composite and we replaced the frame with galvanized steel that was chemically washed, primed and painted with two coats of industrial material.”Ibach wanted a Day-Glo orange look for the sign, which was achieved when the sign was primed, painted red and primed again between layers. Day-Glow finish lasts about 120 days unless a gloss filter ray clear is applied, and Rogers Sign Company sends out crew on a ladder jack system to refinish the sign when needed.The Dolle’s sign is attached via a wooden frame on the roof’s surface, anchored into the building’s infrastructure. The roof was re-rubberized around it.The final cost of removing the sign and relocating it has yet to be determined, but the Rehoboth Beach Commissioners cautioned during the Sept. 8 meeting that it may be an expensive effort. But based on the outcry of visitors and some locals, some city officials are leaning toward preserving it.“Personally, I think it’s going to be very costly and that provides some hesitation. But I think we need to preserve the sign in the city somehow. The Main Street businesses would like us to keep it, they’ve been anxious about it,” said Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski, who is the commission’s liaison to the Rehoboth Beach Main Street organization.Among the many suggestions, the one most often mentioned is placing it on top of the Rehoboth Beach Museum. The museum, a mile down the street from the boardwalk, has a flat roof but has recently started leaking. One HVAC system on the roof may also need to be replaced soon ahead of the sign. Rehoboth Beach Main Street members have reportedly started looking into grants to relocate the sign to the museum.Other options discussed include placing it in the Grove Park or creating a replica for the museum instead of preserving the original. But the city would still have to pay for ongoing maintenance costs for the sign.“It’s not so much Dolle’s or the sign, but where it’s located. You could see it coming down Rehoboth Avenue, it’s the horizon coming from the beach. It’s part of our brand, but it’s not going to be anything like it is now,” Chrzanowksi said during the Sept. 8 meeting “We need to recognize and understand that. One of the most expensive parts of this could be figuring out how to put it on a roof.”
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