[caption id="attachment_226911" align="aligncenter" width="798"] The Cottage Café in Bethany Beach was recently acquired by SoDel Concepts as the founders looked to take more time off. | PHOTO COURTESY OF SODEL CONCEPTS[/caption]
BETHANY BEACH — In the past year, SoDel Concepts bought Surf Bagel with the goal of expanding it and opened a new brewery in Ocean View. But in the background, the Sussex County restaurant group was also working on another deal: acquiring the Cottage Café Restaurant & Pub.The sale of the Bethany Beach restaurant on Route 1 is not yet final at this point — not until the liquor license transfers — but the move symbolizes SoDel gaining ground in the beach community. “The Cottage Café has such a sweet spot in the hearts of so many locals and visitors,” SoDel Concepts President Scott Kammerer said in a statement. “Because the restaurant is in a fast-growing area, it attracts a loyal following and a new fan base.”Kammerer and the Cottage Café owners Tom Neville and Brent Poffenberger were brought together by an undisclosed third party about a potential sale, according to SoDel representatives. Discussions have been ongoing for about a year.The Cottage Café seats 240 people and has roughly 90 employees, not including the seasonal workforce. By the end of last year, SoDel Concepts had around 1,800 people in its workforce, according to the Delaware Business Times research. But that number does not include Suf Bagel’s employees or the Ocean View Brewing Company, which opened earlier this year.“This was an opportunity that seemed to work really on both sides. It was not a strategic move,” SoDel Concepts Director of Operations Kris Medford told DBT. “They really wanted someone to keep the tradition going. We are thrilled that Brent and Tom felt confident in our ability to carry on their legacy and continue to run this iconic restaurant.”College friends Neville and Poffenberger opened Cottage Café first in Ocean City, Md., in 1993 after they graduated from Shepherd University in West Virginia. The following year, the partners opened the Bethany Beach restaurant. “We did everything,” in the early days, including cooking, Neville said. “We worked 80-hour weeks. But the hard work paid off.” In 2003, the Cottage Café in Ocean City closed when the lease expired. Neville and Poffenberger eventually opened the Bethany Boathouse across the highway from the Cottage Café and designed it to look like a U.S. Life-Saving Station.“Owning two restaurants has been rewarding, but now we want to spend more time with our families,” Poffenberger said. “We feel fortunate that a local family-owned company like SoDel Concepts is interested in The Cottage Café. It’s important that we leave it in good hands. We are confident that SoDel will continue the tradition of great service to our guests, and, maybe most importantly, they will take care of our staff.” SoDel Concepts has no plans to change anything, including leaving the local menu favorites like the bestselling pot roast. However, the restaurant group will ask current employees if there is “anything they feel the need that we could provide them,” Medford said.“The Cottage Café is family-friendly, and it will stay that way,” Kammerer said. “They don’t make coastal restaurants like this anymore, and we are proud to continue Tom and Brent’s legacy.”
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