Grotto looks at the old corner of Dolle, possibly a hotel

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The iconic corner where Dolle’s Candyland once stood could be replaced with a Grotto Pizza as the owners evaluate plans. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

REHOBOTH BEACH — When Dolle’s candy country stood on the corner of Rehoboth Avenue and the boardwalk for 60 years, eventually becoming a symbol of the seaside town with its orange Day-Glo sign commemorated in postcards and family photos for generations.

It may be iconic again as new owners explore the idea of ​​moving Pizza Cave at 1 Rehoboth Ave. – and building a boutique hotel with it.

Grotto Pizza Vice President Jeff Gosnear told the Delaware Business Times that while plans are still underway, the company is looking to update and modernize the whole corner.

“As you can imagine, Grotto is still in the early stages of seeking approval for the redevelopment of the property along the boardwalk between Rehoboth Avenue and Baltimore Avenue,” Gosnear told DBT. “We look forward to bringing this project to the city and hope it will be positively received as a much needed redevelopment of this end of the block.”

Grotto Pizza and their partner investor, Onix Groupof Kennett Square, Pa., bought the entire beachfront block that stretches from Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard to Zelky’s Beach Arcade for $6 million in early 2021.

Grotto Pizza owns the land where its 15 N. Boardwalk location is located, as well as the gated Sirocco Hotel on the other side. On the second floor of its North Boardwalk restaurant is a popular VRBO apartment with visitors. Onix Group, however, owns the 1. Rehoboth Avenue block itself.

The two companies have always presented themselves as a unified group on the purchase of the former Dolle’s storefront. Onix Group is a real estate investment and development company, best known for building the Hyatt Place Hotel in Wilmington’s Riverfront, as well as Big Fish Kennett, Milford Movies, Georgetown Apartments and Pike Creek Terraces.

By moving the Grotto Pizza to the corner of 1 Rehoboth Ave., Gosnear hopes to “update and modernize this whole corner” with a pedestrian-friendly first-floor retail space.

“Grotto Pizza is an icon in Delaware and especially in Rehoboth Beach where the company was founded. Dom Pulieri, the founder of Grotto, is very excited to continue the iconic location at 1 Rehoboth Ave. created by Dolle’s as the Grotto site for decades to come,” he added. “Dom’s vision is to continue Grotto’s legacy at this most important site.”

Behind 1 Rehoboth Ave., Grotto Pizza plans to build a boutique hotel with underground parking. The final hotel design will complement other Rehoboth Beach hotels.

“It is too early to talk about construction since we have not yet formally launched the application process with the city. We hope to start construction as soon as possible,” Gosnear added.

After 60 years in business, Grotto Pizza has 23 locations in the area and has become a Delaware titan in its own right. Pulieri first opened a pizzeria in 1960 to fund his tuition. Three years later, Grotto Pizza opened a second location on the boardwalk as a seasonal operation. In 1974, he opened the restaurant year-round to meet demand.

Dolle’s Candyland has announced that it will vacate the first beachfront block at the end of 2020, due to landlord rent increases. The candy store has since moved to 9 Rehoboth Ave.

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