By Alexandra Moe
OCEAN CITY – Dolle’s is a boardwalk fixture here, serving up homemade treats of saltwater taffy, caramel popcorn and assorted chocolates for what seems like forever.
As it turns out, the family-run candy store is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year.
Dolle’s opened its doors at the corner of Wicomico Street on the boardwalk in 1910. In the early 1970s, Rudolph Dolle Jr. acquired the store from his father and grandfather, both also named Rudolph.
“Well my grandfather and my father were in the carousel business. And we brought a carousel here to Ocean City in 1910,” Dolle said. “And at the time there was a fellow on the corner of Wicomico Street here on the boardwalk making saltwater taffy and he invited my grandfather to buy his business out … He did and Dolle’s was born in 1910.”
Now both of Dolle’s children, Anna, 31, and Andrew, 27, are involved in the business. He hopes the tradition will live on to see another generation. Dolle, who is 60, said he hopes his grandchildren will get involved.
“Everybody loves candy, right?” he said.
Dolle’s Wicomico Street store has undergone numerous renovations and now encompasses 1,600 square feet and several buildings on the block — a far cry from its beginnings as a single, small store. In 2006, Dolle opened another location on 120th Street and Coastal Highway in Ocean City.
Dolle employs fewer than a dozen full-time employees and more than 50 part-time workers. Increased business in the summer requires extra hands to be brought in to make the popular confections in-house each day.
“The saltwater taffy, we probably do about 2,500 to 3,000 pounds a day in the summer and the caramel corn, we do on a continuous basis and the chocolates, we’re doing a couple-hundred pounds of those during the day,” Dolle said, “so it keeps us pretty busy.”
Dolle’s customers come from all over to try the famous saltwater taffy and popcorn, and many rave about the tasty treats.
Sara Bell, who was visiting Ocean City with her family from New Jersey recently, said she likes “the caramel popcorn because it’s evenly coated and not too gooey.” Bell and her family visit the boardwalk every year and said they always make a stop at Dolle’s.
Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan is grateful for the longtime success of the store.
“Everybody who comes downtown and goes to the boardwalk at sometime or another has gone to Dolle’s,” Meehan said, adding that this has helped create a sense of tradition for the city.
The store has many festivities planned for its 100-year anniversary, including various specials running throughout the year aimed at thanking costumers for their loyalty over the past century.
Plus, Dolle said, a large party is in the works for October of this year. It will be an invitation-only event for employees, former employees and patrons who have helped the business become the landmark that it is.
“To be 100 years old is a milestone,” Dolle said, “And I hope we are here another 100 years.”