Eight Restaurants Within A Mile Too Much For Berlin? Operators, Mayor Don’t Seem To Think So

Eight Restaurants Within A Mile Too Much For Berlin? Operators, Mayor Don’t Seem To Think So
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BERLIN – While no one disputes that it was a successful summer for Berlin businesses, the onset of autumn has left some wondering what’s to come with the cooler temperatures. It’s a question particularly relevant to those in the town’s burgeoning restaurant scene.  The small town of 4,500 people, for years home to just three downtown eateries, now boasts no fewer than eight restaurants and an array of coffee and pastry shops. But how many is too many?

“If Berlin was your typical Eastern Shore small town, I would have concerns about the number of restaurants,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “But we are not typical. In fact, for a long time, many people have worked together to make Berlin an attractive destination community for this region of Maryland.”

It’s that cooperative spirit and mutual respect that Berlin’s restaurant owners say have enabled the town to envelop the array of restaurants that have popped up within the past few years.

“Everyone’s worked hard to develop their own niche,” said Jen Dawicki, owner of The Globe. “Everybody has something to offer. That shows a level of respect among the business owners.”

Ivy Wells, the town’s economic development director, says visitors are always impressed with the variety of restaurants in Berlin. She keeps a book of menus at the visitors center.

“The comment is always ‘wow, there’s something for everyone,’” she said. “The restaurants are so unique here. We don’t have two of the same.”

Leaky Pete’s, one of Berlin’s newer restaurants, had a good summer according to owner Terry Feehley. He agrees that while Berlin has a lot of restaurants no two are the same.

“It’s pretty diverse,” he said. “We all have different stuff. It gives people choices.”

When asked if the town could support its growing percentage of eating establishments, Wells replied that she was confident it could. She hopes even more will come to town.

“We still don’t have a vegan restaurant or an ethnic restaurant,” she said, adding that she’d like to build up Berlin as a culinary destination. “There’s plenty of room.”

On Broad Street, Dawicki operates one of the few restaurants that isn’t new to Berlin along with the Atlantic Hotel and Rayne’s Reef. She’ll celebrate 10 years at The Globe next spring. She believes her restaurant’s commitment to quality food and good service are what has made The Globe successful and she sees no reason why that can’t prove true for all of the town’s dining establishments. She says that’s particularly true in the wake of Berlin’s 2014 designation as America’s Coolest Small Town by Budget Travel. Though the honor is more than a year old, The Globe still gets new customers who said they decided to come to town after hearing of the recognition.

“This summer was excellent,” she said. “We had new customers every day. Winning America’s Coolest Small Town was invaluable to Berlin.”

The Globe wasn’t the only restaurant seeing a fair amount of business during the summer. John Cookro of Crush N Crab, which opened in June, says the restaurant at the south edge of town experienced a strong July and August.  He says fall hasn’t brought a drop in business but rather a shift.

“Weekday dinners have slowed but breakfast and lunch have picked up,” he said.

Cookro says his restaurant is a bit different from Berlin’s other eateries because it’s at the end of South Main Street, out of the immediate downtown area.

“I see a lot of business from the schools, the [ball] fields and Route 113 traffic,” he said.

Nevertheless, he is making some minor changes heading into winter. To encourage locals to keep dining out, Crush N Crab is introducing weekday specials, happy hour deals and $5.99 lunches.

“We’re trying to make things more reasonable for the offseason,” he said.

Cookro hopes the adjustments will bring in enough business that he’ll be able to keep his staff of 18 and his regular hours through the winter.

“We’ll have to play that month to month,” he said.

It’s not uncommon for restaurants to make changes to accommodate a shift in clientele or new customer interests, according to Dawicki.

“We’ve had to recreate ourselves a bit here and there with the ebb and flow of the market and population,” Dawicki said.

The Globe, for example, put 10 beers on tap just as the public interest in craft beer bloomed about four years ago.

“That brings in another market of people,” she said. “It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.”

As many of the beers are local, the change has also provided opportunities for the restaurant to partner with area breweries. Berlin’s mayor believes partnerships like those will keep the town’s economic success going in years to come.

“As long as all businesses, not just restaurants, continue to recognize how important it is to support and promote each other, then I believe today’s Berlin will be something we can all look forward to far into the future,” Williams said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.