In the 1990s, most beach towns were deserted after Labor Day, especially Bethany Beach. “I remember nights in the off-season when we never saw a single customer,” says Michelle DiFebo Freeman, who worked at her sister’s restaurant, DiFebo’s. Even in 2004, when Jay Caputo purchased Espuma in Rehoboth Beach, about half the restaurants closed in the off-season. “Things moved at a slower pace,” he says. Oh, the changes they’ve seen. Most beach towns are now all-year destinations with more restaurants, cultural opportunities, tourists and residents. Both Freeman and Caputo have played a large part in that growth. She heads a real estate development company and the Freeman Stage at Bayside. He owns three restaurants. But growth comes with a price, namely traffic congestion, parking problems and development on land that’s increasingly pummeled by storms. That concerns innkeeper Ted Becker, who began visiting in 1978, and Rehoboth Beach commissioner Pat Coluzzi. Here’s a look at the area’s past, present and future, from their experiences.
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