The Avenue Inn & Spa has Deep Roots
Fourth Generation ~ Locally Owned and Operated since 1937
The Avenue Inn & Spa history
The flagship hotel of the Seaboard Hotels group began as a restaurant. In 1937, the building that came to house the Avenue Restaurant was constructed by George Shockley. It was a part of a complex that included a movie theatre and a “tea room.” The original building comprising the Avenue Restaurant was sited on a standard-sized commercial lot on Rehoboth Avenue. Seeking to expand the footprint of the restaurant in 1945, George Shockley negotiated the lease of and eventually purchased a contiguous lot on Wilmington Avenue. Mr. Shockley was a well-known contractor in the Rehoboth Beach area. Both his physical stature and entrepreneurial spirit earned him the moniker “Big George.”
George and his wife, Eliza Belle, initially let the latter space to a third party. But by 1945, the lease was assumed by their daughters, Grace and Helen. The two sisters operated the restaurant with Helen’s husband, Alvin Simpler, from 1945-1950. The Shockley heirs soon determined that their business interests lay elsewhere. Soon after, George and Eliza leased the premises to Samuel Kramedas, the adjacent owner of the Candy Box. This was for an initial period of 10 years with a presumption of renewal. That renewal never came.
Return to The Avenue
After several years spent away from the restaurant, Helen Simpler informed her parents that she and her husband, Alvin, were interested in operating the Avenue. George Shockley notified his tenant that he would not be renewing his initial ten-year term after the lease expired in 1950. The Avenue Restaurant once again fell under the operation of the Shockley and Simpler families.
The original Avenue Restaurant building constructed in 1937 was destroyed by fire in December of 1962. An oven flare-up in the kitchen following the lunch hour forced several patrons and the restaurant staff to flee the building. In addition to the Rehoboth Beach Fire Company, volunteer companies from both Lewes and Milton responded to the blaze. They fought the fire in excess of four hours in temperatures hovering around freezing. (Ironically, the Avenue Restaurant had survived nearly unscathed the legendary and catastrophic “Great March Storm.” The storm ravaged the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk and first commercial block of the town earlier that year.) The Avenue Restaurant was rebuilt on the same site the year following the fire. And it opened for business less than six months after being destroyed.
Rebirth of The Avenue Inn & Spa
Kenneth (Kenny) Simpler, the son of Helen and Alvin, began working for his parents at the Avenue Restaurant in the 1960s. He began as a dishwasher. Kenny then worked his way up through the restaurant doing everything from kitchen line work to purchasing and ordering. He ultimately went onto managing. After marrying Karen Gottshall in 1966, the couple worked together at the Avenue. Kenny worked in the “back” and Karen “up front.” When Kenny’s father passed away in 1974, the couple purchased his parents’ interest in the Avenue and operated the restaurant continuously until 1987. Following the Simplers exit from the business, the property and operations were leased to a third party. This was before the Avenue Restaurant was ultimately shuttered after a 50-year run in 1996. The Avenue operations, however, would be reborn just four years later in 2000 as the Avenue Inn.
The Avenue Inn was constructed on the footprint of the Avenue Restaurant in 1998-99. The original 48-unit hotel underwent renovations in 2012. They included enclosing the grade level parking area and adding almost 10,000 square feet of interior common areas. This space is now the lobby, reception, breakfast room, sun room, lounge and fitness center. The renovation preceded and contemplated an expansion of the Inn in 2015-16 to two adjacent properties on Wilmington Avenue. That project added 28 rooms to the second and third floors of the hotel. Also added were three stores and a restaurant at the street level. The Avenue Inn operates year round and offers visitors a unique, full-service hotel experience in the heart of downtown Rehoboth Beach.
The Avenue Inn is now owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Avenue Restaurant’s founders. Kendra (Simpler) and Alex Moore and Elizabeth and Ken Simpler, Jr. are the current proprietors of a property first acquired by great grandparents Eliza Belle and George Shockley in the 1930s. The two couples are committed to the family’s continued stewardship of the Inn. They look forward to the eventual passage of the property to their own children, a fifth generation of owner-operators.