Ocean City Restaurant Legend Fondly Remembered By Many

Ocean City Restaurant Legend Fondly Remembered By Many
Bill Gibbs is pictured in 2020 holding a photo of his younger self tossing pizza dough. File Photo

OCEAN CITY — The resort community lost an icon last weekend with the passing of Dough Roller patriarch Bill Gibbs, a successful businessman and a familiar face on the Boardwalk for decades.

Gibbs grew up in Ocean City and began his first restaurant job at the age of 14, serving pizza at a local shop downtown. By the age of 22, he bought Jose’s, an old pizza shop on Wicomico Street. In 1980, the young entrepreneur had the means to buy the Breakers Hotel, where he had worked as a beach boy renting umbrellas and chairs.

After reconfiguring the hotel’s front porch area, Gibbs opened his first Dough Roller restaurant the next year. He expanded to start offering breakfast on the Boardwalk a short time later.

Over the years, Gibbs’ Dough Roller empire grew, as did his family. The family continues to operate multiple Dough Roller restaurants on the Boardwalk and throughout the resort. While he will be fondly remembered for his business acumen, he will perhaps most be remembered for his service to the community. He was often at City Council meetings and served on various volunteer task forces and commissions. He was named Businessman of the Year in Ocean City in 2014 when he received a key to the city.

Gibbs served as president of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (HMRA) and was a founding member of the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC). He was also a founding member of the Downtown Improvement Association and served on the Atlantic General Hospital Foundation, chairing the golf tournament for many years.

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Gibbs actively supported Children’s House by the Sea, the Worcester County Developmental Center, Believe in Tomorrow and many other charities. Gibbs and his wife, Julie, received the Brice and Shirley Phillips Lifetime Industry Award from the Restaurant Association of Maryland in 2012.

At the close of Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan fondly recalled his old friend of decades. Meehan recalled recently seeing Gibbs on a bench outside his Boardwalk restaurant while Meehan was riding his bike and recalled his many conversations with him over the years.

“We lost a very prominent Ocean City citizen over the weekend and that is Bill Gibbs,” he said. “Bill lived here all of his life and he grew up in Ocean City. I’ve known Bill since the early 1970s before he owned the Dough Roller.”

Meehan recounted Gibbs’ successes over the years from his first jobs as a teenager, to his first restaurant to finally what Dough Roller has become over the years.

“He was a great entrepreneur,” he said. “He opened his first Dough Roller in 1981. Before that, he had a small pizza shop on Wicomico Street. It is truly a family business. All three of his sons- Jeff, Gary and Kevin- are all involved in the business.”

Most importantly, the Mayor recounted Gibbs’ lasting legacy in Ocean City.

“He was a good friend and a great guy,” he said.  “Everybody that ever worked for Bill Gibbs will tell you he was a terrific boss and a great guy to work for. He gave an awful lot back to the Town of Ocean City. He was Businessman of the Year. I’m going to miss Bill and I don’t want to forget him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and we will all miss him.”

HMRA Executive Director Susan Jones said this week her family has a history with Gibbs and the Dough Roller.

“Both my husband and daughter have worked for Mr. Gibbs in their teens and loved their time working for Dough Roller,” she said. “Mr. Gibbs served as president of the HMRA from 1988 to 1989, so it was prior to my arrival. However, I always enjoyed when I was able to speak with him as there was never any fluff. We always had an honest and spirited conversation.”

Jones recalled a particular event when Gibbs’ hospitable nature was on display.

“I remember a dinner meeting we held at Castaways restaurant,” she said. “He was working tirelessly to make sure everyone was served before he got his meal, the epitome of hospitality. He’ll be missed for sure.”

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin also fondly recalled Gibbs.

“He had a powerful personality, possessed an entrepreneurial spirit in his many business dealings, was a proud family man, and possessed a tremendous heart,” he said. “Bill provided financial and personal support to many community projects, like the white marlin statue at the foot of the Route 50 Bridge, the holiday lighting fixtures at the Inlet and throughout downtown, golf tournament fundraisers and others. Downtown Ocean City and all of Ocean City is that much better because of Bill Gibbs.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.