More Diverse Businesses Take Root in Middletown | Delaware News
By KRYS’TAL GRIFFIN, The News Journal
MIDDLETOWN, Del. (AP) – Middletown’s growth is no secret. Since 2000, the city’s population has more than tripled, from just under 7,000 to over 23,000.
This rapid growth has changed a lot of things, one of them being the diversity of shops and restaurants. Recently a Jamaican restaurant and an Indian restaurant recently opened.
Growth is not in sight as roads, shopping malls and housing estates continue to be built.
“There was nothing west of here. It was the boondocks, ”said Edward Reposa, a former inhabitant of the landscape decades ago. “After that, it kept exploding.”
Jamaican Jammin ‘Flavors, on West Main Street, has been open since late August.
After 23 years in the military, co-owner Marlene Hyman decided to pursue her passion for cooking and open the restaurant with her husband. She said cooking is more than a business, sharing traditional Jamaican cuisine is a way to pay homage to her roots and expand the palate of her neighbors.
“Going to other restaurants and seeing their food, coming from Jamaica, was not the same as what was served at home,” she said. “I wanted it to be authentic so I opened the restaurant to show what jerk chicken can be.”
Jamaican Jammin ‘Flavors also has vegan options for various menu items, a nod to Hyman’s vegan grandmother who taught her how to cook.
Hyman traveled to unknown places during his time in the military and discovered new cultures and foods. She hopes her restaurant’s presence in Middletown will allow people to do the same.
“Why not honor Middletown with something a little different,” she said. “From a cultural point of view, let them open their horizons to new things.”
Curry & Spice, on Hedgelaw Plaza, is another new restaurant in the area, serving Indian cuisine with a modern twist. The establishment also offers cocktails inspired by the soda stalls on the streets of India.
Throughout the pandemic, many restaurants and stores on Main Street leaned on each other as they struggled to stay afloat.
“It breaks my heart because there is so much here that people aren’t aware of,” said Amy White, Middletown Main Street board chair.
The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has also had an impact in Middletown.
“One of the issues we unfortunately experience is business turnover,” White said.
Louise May Bridal had been on the corner of Main and Broad streets since 2007 and was one of the oldest businesses on Main Street when it closed for good at the end of last summer due to the pandemic.
Mia Rose Bridal is now occupying the space, but the loss of the old store portends a bigger problem with businesses coming and going in recent years.
Nestled between the storefronts of restaurants and trinket shops, vacation posters are stuck to the windows of several buildings.
“We’ve seen about four businesses close in the last few years, which is really sad to see,” said Amber Shader, owner of the First & Little store. “I would like to start thinking about ways to get people to explore downtown more.”
Shader believes the addition of retail stores and restaurants would increase foot traffic.
“I would love to see a nice little cafe, a soup and salad restaurant, more casual quick meals,” she said.
Lisa Poore, 60, who has lived in Middletown since 2003, agrees new restaurants would be a spark.
“It would be nice to have like an old fashioned cafe. Maybe more seats outside, ”she said.
For Poore, owner of MOT Roofing, Main Street has always been a place for neighbors to meet and host volunteer events because of the “great vibe” of the historic strip.
Lisa Loescher has lived in Wilmington and has lived a few blocks from Main Street for the past four years. She likes the more relaxed atmosphere of a small town.
“I would like to see fine cuisine. Something more than a burger, ”she said. “A place where people can see live music with a space big enough to dance. “
Getting city council more involved in efforts to increase foot traffic could help businesses thrive and stay, she said.
“There doesn’t seem to be enough love for Main Street,” she said. “I think it’s idyllic. Beautiful.”
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