That dog-and-pony-show at Rehoboth Beach, headed by the stylish Virginia billionaire Stewart Resnick, is really just a throwback to the late 1970s, when the resort was a kind of Hamptons for the Georgetown set. A big chunk of beach was erased because Rehoboth owner Bass Realty wanted to buy a vacant lot across the street. Resnick declared a minor environmental disaster when he re-roofed 101 Oceanfront Circle that needed washing out. And he paid $2.5 million for a genteel house built in the mansion style of 1899.
There are some smart signs of impending economic doom as the local economy becomes a victim of its own success. The number of summer visitors to Rehoboth, through Memorial Day, has almost doubled since 1992. People flocked in from the west coast; we are as close to Alaska as the Ashburn Reservoir.
The builders of big new buildings have barely begun to get their work done, but businesses report a shortage of construction workers. The resort chain Travelodge, which has been with Rehoboth for 25 years, put the word out to its workers a few weeks ago to be patient. Bass Resorts, which owns four hotels in Rehoboth and a convention center, is giving hotels and bars built on non-sensitive beach lots priority.
Business owners see a strong year ahead and hope the tourism boom will continue. But things are turning a lot cooler than the silly party fun of the late 1980s. The seaside resort may yet be haunted by the ghosts of Eldridge Rees and the Nash brothers, whose name is legendary in Rehoboth history.