by Terry Rogers
May 2019 marked a new start for the iconic Broadkill Store when it opened under new management for the first time in decades. Five couples purchased the store from the previous owner who wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren. After making a few renovations and adding some menu items, the store opened using recipes passed down from the previous owners as well as a few new items. On May 1, 2020, the seasonal store opened for its second season with even more new offerings.
“Things have gone very well,” Ed Hilligoss, a co-owner along with his wife, Debbie, said. “People seem so happy to have us here and we have a constant stream of customers. It was slow in the beginning but a lot of that was due to the weather in May. We offer carry-out only, so we were able to open on our planned date. We do have outdoor picnic tables and a lot of people grab food and sit outside when the weather is nice.”
The store offers “everything except hardware,” Hilligoss said. They have a limited supply of groceries, a small gift shop and some household items that visitors and residents of the small beach town may need. They also have a full deli with subs, breakfast sandwiches, a walk-up ice cream window and more. They do not offer delivery but have many return customers each week.
“The first year went very well,” Hilligoss said. “We had a few hiccups but we worked through them. The biggest issue we have right now is the supply chain issue. We are having trouble getting things like sand toys, ice cream and beef is extremely difficult. Who knew it would be so hard to find hot dogs? The prices have increased incredibly so we have had to make a few changes. I can’t get the turkey breast I was using last year, so we have had to shift to a different type. We are making as many adjustments as we can in this area.”
Since the weather has improved, the store has seen a big increase in customers. Hilligoss also pointed out that fishing is good so far which also brings people to Broadkill Beach. The store is the only business in the quiet town that is often visited by those who enjoy surf fishing and spending time along the Delaware Bay without big crowds.
“We are seeing some new faces this year, although it is tough to know who is coming in with the mask requirement,” Hilligoss said with a smile. “There are people who came here back in March when the quarantine began and have just stayed. We are getting to know some of the people who have chosen to purchase here in Broadkill instead of Rehoboth or Bethany where it is much more crowded.” The other owners include Tina and Mike Hilligoss, Missy and Jeff Mulveny, Lisa and Bob Conte along with Shane and Erin McCarthy.
People visiting the store will see a few changes this year. Hilligoss explained that the store has purchased a food trailer to take to events in order to sell their famous donuts, a recipe handed down from the previous owner.
“We make our own donuts,” Tina Hilligoss said. “We make sticky buns, which is also a recipe from the previous owner, on Tuesday. Pizza is available every afternoon. We have added fries this year along with chicken cheesesteaks. This year, we will also have Helmick’s Homestead produce available. Patrick Helmick is local and we will have a shelf in the store with his fresh strawberries, asparagus, corn, tomatoes and honey. Whatever is in season, he will bring in for us to offer.”
Most of the owners are members of the Hilligoss family who spent summers at a beach house in the small town. In 1970, the family moved to the area permanently. The Conte family were also visitors to Broadkill before moving there. Tina explained that her family built a beach house there and she spent many summers there as well. Mulveny worked at the store as a teenager and was thrilled that her family was able to keep the store operational when the previous owner decided to sell, saying that the store “is part of my childhood and I am so happy we have been able to keep it going.”
There is not much history about the Broadkill Store. There are records that indicate it was located a few streets from its present location and that it was moved around 1924. Information found in the store as they remodeled, including newspaper articles, discussed the fact that people were visiting the store during World War II. The parents of the current owners talked about dances that used to be held in the back of the store. All of the current owners remember playing pinball and air hockey as well as playing music on a jukebox, especially during rainy days.
Broadkill Store is open seven days each week from 7 AM to 9 PM during the summer. Orders can be placed by calling 684-4809 and curbside delivery is available.