Tired of working for a boss, Henry Meding in 1983 began selling seafood from his pickup truck. It went so well that the former electrician built a restaurant and market on Del. 1 in Milford.
The restaurant, Meding’s Seafood, is now an institution. “People love our fried oysters,” says Henry’s son, Rob Meding, who came aboard in 1990. “We also have really good crab cakes, and people call us from all over to overnight crabs to them.”
The business is doing its part to preserve the county’s centuries-old link with the water. Area fishermen still bring product to the market, says Meding, who fished the Delaware Bay as a child. Although the propeller out front once belonged to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Shangri-La, it could symbolize the shipbuilding industries that once thrived in Milford. (medingsseafood.com)
Other businesses also display Kent County’s heritage. For example, Fifer Orchards in Camden-Wyoming, founded in 1919 by Charles F. Fifer, demonstrates the county’s connection with the land.
Like many farmers at that time, Fifer was heavy into peaches. But thanks to Fifer’s foresight, the orchard survived the blight that crippled the industry soon after. “Charles Fifer was the pioneer of the way we do things today,” says Mike Fennemore, whose mother is Mary Fifer Fennemore. “We don’t put our eggs in one basket.”
Peaches, however, remain the orchard’s signature crop. In August, Fifer Orchards and the town of Wyoming celebrate with the Wyoming Peach Festival and Peach Ice Cream Day. (fiferorchards.com)
Kirby & Holloway doesn’t raise animals for its savory scrapple and sausages, but the Harrington company still represents the county’s rural traditions. Russell Kirby, who grew up on a Milford Neck farm, and John Holloway started the plant in 1947 with recipes from Russell’s mother.
The company provides products to Kent County dining spots such as Helen’s Famous Sausage House in Smyrna and the Smyrna Diner. Scrapple is still made in eight cast iron kettles. “You can no longer buy them, and I think they make the best scrapple,” says Rudy Kirby, now the president. The company’s offerings also include turkey and boneless ham.
Agriculture gets a boost from the efforts of the ladybug, which can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. In 1974, second-graders at Lulu M. Ross Elementary School in Milford successfully campaigned to make the ladybug Delaware’s state bug. Their story became the inspiration for the LadyBug Shop, which opened in 2003 in downtown Milford.
The shop is owned by Dan and Rhonda Bond, who also own The Towers Bed & Breakfast. Items include a ladybug nightlight, perforated to display the constellations on the ceiling, and fuzzy slippers. The apparel is a big hit during the annual Bug & Bud Festival. (ladybug-shop.com)
In Dover, Delaware Made sells artwork that captures Kent County scenes. “The Green, the buildings, the wetlands—you name it,” says owner Tom Smith. (delawaremade.com)
Happily, customers can view the landscape subjects in person. Idyllic spots like Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Killens Pond State Park give visitors a glimpse of the past. (fws.gov/northeast/bombayhook, destateparks.com/park/
Some things in Kent County are slow to change, and both residents and visitors are glad of it.