Berlin’s Bustling Business Community Weathers 2020 Challenges

Berlin’s Bustling Business Community Weathers 2020 Challenges
Berlin’s newest business, boxcar on main, opened this month in the former home of DiFebo’s on Main Street. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – While the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, Berlin nonetheless welcomed several new businesses to town in 2020.

Nine new businesses opened in Berlin in 2020 while three more are preparing to open in the spring of 2021. Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, believes they’ve been drawn by the town’s growing reputation as a culinary destination as well as its cooperative spirit.

“Potential business owners want to feel part of a community and that’s what we have here in Berlin,” Wells said. “It’s different here; many of the shop owners actually live in town and the shop local movement is strong.”

In 2020, the town welcomed Dolle’s Candyland, Cozy Recording Studio, Harvest Guitar Shop, boxcar on main, East and Main Shore Supply, The Globe Gastro Theatre, Practically Yours Gift Shop, The Buzz Meadery and Pop’s Kitchen. Businesses expected to open in the spring of 2021 include The Mermaid Museum, a new crab house and general store from the owners of OCM Crabs and The Rusty Anchor Seafood Market.

Paul Suplee, who recently opened boxcar on main, said that pandemic or not, he simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take an available restaurant space in Berlin.

“If it wasn’t in Berlin I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.

Suplee says Berlin has a unique atmosphere that he wanted to be a part of.

“People here are trying to open great restaurants, great entertainment venues, and still maintain a small-town feel,
he said.

At his restaurant, Suplee — whose first couple weeks in business in Berlin have exceeded expectations — is making a concerted effort to support his fellow merchants, using products from Gilbert’s Provisions, Burley Oak and The Buzz Meadery, to name a few. Wells said the town’s shops offered a variety of different products and specialties which made it possible for them to support each other.

“I think the Berlin business community thrives on inclusion with each having its own niche,” she said. “Most shops offer something completely different from the next. Many of the new businesses offer items made right here in Berlin.”

Wells believes another key to Berlin remaining a popular commercial location this year was its response to COVID-19.

“Berlin took Governor Hogan’s challenge very seriously,” she said. “Each business and restaurant owner immediately put CDC safety measures into place and I think many felt safe and comfortable shopping here.”

Businesses also put tables and racks outside to allow for social distancing. Restaurants that didn’t already have outdoor dining space added café tables to the town’s sidewalks. Berlin also implemented some safety measures, such as a mask mandate and physical distancing requirements, that allowed its farmers market to continue during the pandemic.

“The farmers markets on Sundays were a big boost for businesses this spring and summer,” Wells said. “Some businesses that were never open on Sundays took advantage of the foot traffic the market brought to town and opened; those who were already open on Sundays decided to open at 9 a.m. Sundays because the busiest day for businesses during the pandemic.”

When asked if she was concerned about any of the town’s businesses not being able to weather the pandemic’s effects, Wells said she was not.

“I am not worried at all,” she said. “We will all make it through this with each other’s support.”

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.