Support After Court Verdict Appreciated
I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for the thousand-plus posts that appeared within 12 hours after the publication in the Dispatch on Aug. 11, 2017, of the article regarding a court decision about the Nathan Rapoport property located at 601 S. Atlantic Avenue.
For almost two generations, Don Timmons, the owner of Dumser’s Dairyland, has been a respected business owner at that location. It was fitting that on his 68th birthday, this overwhelming response to the decision would be so supportive of him, and I thank all who have taken the time to voice their concerns over Ocean City’s attempt to destroy both his business and my family’s building on this property.
My name is Mona Strauss and I am the 85-year-old granddaughter of Nathan Rapoport — “Mr. Nathan” — who first began operating businesses on this property in 1912. I would like to give a brief and accurate historical account of the property. My grandfather built his first building on this property in 1912, and from 1912 until 1969 continuously operated various businesses ranging from Popular Doll Place to Pitch-til-You-Win on this property.
In 1966, my grandfather decided he wanted to live in Ocean City year-round and rebuild with significant improvements by adding a second floor to his building, just as two other buildings located on the east side of the Boardwalk had recently done. Although at that time he had been on the property continuously for 54 years, he did not have a deed. He was 83 at the time, in poor health, and did not have the financial resources to go through the process of confirming his ownership of the property at that time. He contacted the City Council about his desire to build a new building on his property.
The result was an “Agreement” between the city and my grandfather prepared by the attorney for the city. This Agreement was not a lease. It was not a franchise. It was not a license. It began with the words, “This Agreement” and it specifically stated that my grandfather’s building was “on ground that the City does not claim to own, but only administers.” The only two stated purposes of the agreement were: to have a better building for Ocean City and to establish a basis for my Grandfather to pay real estate taxes on the property. Prior to that time, my grandfather had made a yearly contribution to the fire company that was more than the real property taxes would have been. After the Agreement was signed and permit issued, my grandfather built a brand new two-story building on the property and he and my grandmother lived in the apartment on the second floor. This is the building you see there today. My grandfather lived there until his death in 1973.
For 50 years, our family has paid real property taxes on both the building and also the land that covers less than 1,500 square feet of ground. The taxes are currently more than $12,000 per year. The Agreement was for 25 years and gave our family the right to extend it for another 25 years as long as we were maintaining our building. The Agreement said absolutely nothing about what would happen at the end of the 50 years. The Agreement did not say that our family would have to leave after 50 years or that our building would be torn down. In the Agreement, the city specifically conceded that it did not own the land, and the city did not claim that it had any easement over the land on which my grandfather’s building sat. My grandfather entered into the Agreement with Ocean City to get a permit to build his new building and to buy peace for 50 years, because he did not have the strength or money to establish his title at that time.
The first 25 years ended in 1991 and we exercised our right to extend it for another 25 years. The city, however, ignored our right to extend and filed suit to evict us back in 1991. The city’s case was thrown out of court on summary judgment, but defending and winning this totally unwarranted suit by the city in 1991 was extremely expensive for our family.
In May of last year, I received a letter from the attorney for Ocean City demanding that we vacate the property and our building by Sept. 19, 2016. After receiving this letter, and before the city could again sue to evict us, we filed suit to confirm our rights and ownership of our building and the less than 1,500 square feet of ground on which it sits, and that we had been in continuous possession of for 104 years.
Trial was held in April of this year. We were dumbfounded to learn for the first time on the morning of trial that a retired judge, who was a former long-time attorney for the Town of Ocean City, would be the judge hearing our case. This judge ruled in favor of Ocean City, ordering us to remove or demolish our building by the end of the year — well before our appeal will be decided by the appellate court in Annapolis. The judge has also ordered a hearing before him in November on the city’s demand that we pay it all the rent we received since last September. This hearing will also be held well before our appeal is decided.
And that brings us to the present. We will shortly be filing our Appeal to the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.
Dumsers’ Owner Responds
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation to the family of Nathan Rapoport for their help and support for many years. My first ice cream store was at the Dolle property on the Boardwalk where I had been making salt water taffy for my friend Bunky Dolle for eight years prior. My first lease at the Inlet location was with Mr. Nathan’s daughter, Mrs. Goldenberg, many years ago. She was one of the kindest ladies I had ever met. She allowed me to make improvements that increased business. Also she gave me long-term leases, which allowed me to expand Dumsers’ Dairyland into the locations you see today. This support has continued with her-daughter Mrs. Strauss and her family for many years.
The business at this location belonged to Mrs. Gladys Dumser, who was one of the most knowledgeable persons when it came to ice cream. She started in Ocean City in 1939. You could say she lived and breathed ice cream her entire life. Dumsers’ is 100% an Ocean City original.
She retired in 1981, turning the reins over to me, with years of instruction and help to follow while she continued to live above this store. My family and I may be the owners of Dumsers’, but it still very much belongs to her and her memory. We have done our best to honor that memory by making and selling the best and freshest ice cream in the country. We decided many years ago to remain only in Ocean City, giving up many opportunities to expand elsewhere.
It is very sad for us to see what is happening to the family of Nathan Rapoport. I remember him walking on the Boardwalk in the mornings in his long sleeved white shirt with a bow tie. A very quiet man. What I know of him is that he came to this country at the turn of the century, and decided to invest his life in business in Ocean City. He owned the property across the Boardwalk where Daytons and Dough Roller sit today. He had to rebuild after two devastating fires only to lose the property in the depression. He and his descendants have occupied the present building for more than 100 years. This is all that is left of one of our pioneers who took a chance on Ocean City when tourism was all about new businesses.
I do not understand the dispute over ownership. I am not a lawyer, however it seems unfair for the very city that Mr. Nathan invested in to take away what little his family has left. He should be honored for what he contributed to Ocean City. My family and I hope and pray that the good people at City Hall would listen to the outcry of the people who do not want this change to their Boardwalk, and will withdraw all claims to this property.
This is not for Dumsers’ but for the family who have invested five generations into this location. I want to thank everyone for their overwhelming support on social media and elsewhere. We are so glad to have been a part of your Ocean City experience. Thank you from the Timmons Family.
Peach Festival Thanks
The Berlin Heritage Foundation’s Peach Festival Committee extends heartfelt thanks to all those who made our ninth annual festival a great success. We are grateful to all those who donated funds, prizes or in-kind services, volunteered, performed, demonstrated and sold crafts and art, shared educational information, provided delicious food and beverages, judged pies, dared to join in a pie-eating contest or sport a peach tattoo. We also thank the more than 3,000 people who attended.
Our downtown merchants made Peach Day so much fun. Special thanks go to our major sponsors – Taylor Bank, Williams, Moore, Shockley & Harrison, LLP, Worcester County Arts Council, Maryland State Arts Council and Main Street Berlin — as well as to Mayor Gee Williams, the council and all the departments working for the Town of Berlin who helped to make this another great community event.
What a festive day in Berlin.
The Peach Festival Committee
Club Explains Mission
The Kiwanis Club of Ocean Pines-Ocean City is fast approaching the end of the program year 2016-2017. All members played a role in our accomplishments for another successful year. The new year begins Oct. 1, 2017 and runs through Sept. 30, 2018. The Kiwanis mission is, “Serving the Children of the World.” We are doing that and need to continue helping them in this next year.
I have been sending scholarship checks to the colleges for the 13 young people who we are assisting this year. The total awards will be $13,000. You should read some of the letters of thanks from the kids or their parents. Your Club is making a difference with these kids. We make a difference with younger kids as well. This current year the club has provided $10,600 to youth activities in our area. This includes six clubs that we sponsor in local elementary, intermediate, and high schools plus, our new Aktion Club for kids at the Worcester County Development Center. We provide support to the 4Steps Therapeutic Program, Cedar Chapel School, Worcester GOLD Infants Pantry, Back to School supplies and their Christmas program for kids. We sponsor a young girls basketball team through Ocean City Parks and Recreation. We also contribute to OPA camp scholarships, the Cricket Center, United Way Imagination for Kids, a food drive, a coat drive, a toy drive, Life Crisis and Ocean City “Play It Safe.”
Perhaps more important than money, the club donated hundreds of volunteer hours to school art fairs, science fairs and direct assistance to our sponsored school Kiwanis youth service clubs. Your club has also played a supporting role in your community, contributing $2,050 to community support organizations: the OPVFD, the OPA Concerts in the Park, OP Veterans Memorial, a coat drive, Achilles Maryland for the Disabled, and Diakonia, plus hundreds of volunteer hours towards Nursing Home Bingo, companion dolls for patients, the Blood Drives, our house address signs and others.
So, how does all of this get done? Through your volunteer hours and your hard work on our fund raisers. All of this is paid for by your work on pancake breakfasts, the Italian dinner, hot dog sales, the wine tasting event, the Duck Race and weekly donations through collection cans on the tables for Kiwanis Priority One. Of course, it’s not all hard work; there is the satisfaction of working together to get these results, the weekly meeting, and occasional social events.
So here comes 2017-2018. The club and your community need you again. Not only you, but your friends and neighbors, to participate as members of your Kiwanis Club of Greater Ocean Pines-Ocean City. We need our more recent members for their ideas and participation in our mission. We need our older members for what they are able to do, but more importantly their knowledge of our ongoing programs. Join with your Kiwanis Team to continue these services for the 2017-2018 program year.
(The writer is the treasurer of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Ocean Pines-Ocean City.)