SoDel to buy Surf Bagel with expansion in mind
SoDel Concepts President Scott Kammerer said he has high hopes for the bagel eatery once the sale closes Dec. 1, including opening more retail locations in Sussex County and possibly northern Delaware.
“It’s a great place and the passion people have for Surf Bagel is off the charts,” Kammerer told the Delaware Business Times. “We’re starting to think more regional with our market, and Surf Bagel may be the first to grow into a statewide chain.”
Terms of the acquisition deal were not disclosed.
Founded by brothers and avid surfers Dave and Tom Vitella in 2004, Surf Bagel is a longstanding local staple with its New York-style bagels, flavored cream cheeses, bagel sandwiches and other breakfast and lunch items. Currently, Surf Bagel has two locations, one in Five Points in Lewes and the other in the Midway in Rehoboth Beach, and employs about 50 people.
SoDel Concepts employs around 1,800 people at its 13 restaurants in Sussex County, with the recent opening of Matt’s Fish Camp in Fenwick Island. Ocean View Brewing Company is under construction.
Surf Bagel also marks SoDel Concepts venture into a breakfast menu, as the existing restaurants are geared toward late lunch and dinner fare. Kammerer estimates the restaurants serve 100,000 people in a week, and Surf Bagel as it exists today would represent 5% of SoDel Concepts sales.
“I’ve known the Vitellas for a time so I know we have the same philosophy of running a business,” Kammerer said. “I feel honored that they picked me to keep the business going and take on the next challenge.”
That next challenge is opening more Surf Bagel locations in the next five years. Kammerer plans to make no changes to the bagel eatery in the first year, so he can get a feel for the business and what makes it special to locals and visitors. After that, he will start looking at expanding Surf Bagel in Fenwick Island, Ocean View, Milford and Milton. Kammerer said he’s also exploring the possibility of Ocean City, Md., and New Castle County locations, such as Hockessin or north Wilmington.
“Each market has its own vibe and feel, so we need to really look at the market, but we do think regional offices are in the future and there’s an opportunity in the market,” Kammerer said. “We do have some experience with the northern Delaware and Ocean City markets already through our consulting company.”
In 2000, Kammerer and his business partner Matt Haley opened Haley-Kammerer Consulting, which specialized in restaurant best practices, cost savings and restructuring. The consulting firm had as many as 40 clients in both Maryland and Delaware, but also serves as SoDel’s market research arm.
“Maybe there will be only a couple of retail locations. But I do think I’m the guy who can take Surf Bagel to what it should be,” Kammerer said. “At the end of the day, we’re both family businesses. I believe we have what it takes to take Surf Bagel to a bigger level.”
The Kammerer and the Vitella families have deep roots in the Cape Lewes region. Scott Kammerer and Dave Vitella have raised children in the coastal region, and have coached Little League teams throughout the years. Both SoDel Concepts and Surf Bagel have been active in the community, through hosting races, food drives and other charitable efforts.
After running Surf Bagel for close to 20 years, Dave Vitella thought about the next chapter of his life, but wanted to ensure the brand continued to thrive.
“We could not have dreamed of a better fit than with Scott Kammerer and SoDel Concepts,” Vitell said in a press statement. “The one constant in life is change and I knew we wouldn’t be doing this forever. SoDel is the perfect solution; they are the very best at what they do, and they will continue to honor the loyalty and dedication of Surf Bagel’s employees and patrons.”