Shopping in downtown Dover is a wonderful experience. The stores are within walking distance of each other, and they are run by people who care about the customer and each other.
You can find just about any gift for that special someone at places such as Forney’s, Forney’s Too, Delaware Made and Beyond Dimensions. Brides can shop for their dresses at Simon’s or The Wedding Boutique and order their flowers at Bows & Blooms by Barbei. There’s a wine and spirits store, antiques shop and a Middle Eastern grocery. A few blocks away, party planners can find anything they could possibly need at the well-stocked Box Outlet.
Though the shops offer different wares, they share something in common: expertise in their fields and the best customer service this side of the canal. Visitors and locals sense the deep bond owners enjoy as they promote each other and the city.
Here’s a small sampling of what downtown Dover has to offer.
Forney’s Ltd. (106 W. Loockerman St., 734-3425) offers a wonderful selection of the finest jewelry from some of the most respected American manufacturers, as well as traditional solitaires for that one-of-a-kind proposal.
Forney’s can remount stones to create wearable custom art. It offers repair of jewelry and watches, as well as certified appraisals. The store carries house wares, including a dynamic wall display of Peggy Karr fused glassware. Beautiful music boxes and jewelry boxes made by Gold Label, Mr. Christmas, and Reed and Barton line the shelves.
Customers are often greeted enthusiastically by Lou, owner Ami Leaming’s black Labrador retriever, who knows not to wag his tail close to the Waterford Crystal and other fine glassware.
“There’s no question, what I love most about my job is the customer,” says Leaming, great-granddaughter of Nelson J. Forney, who opened the store in 1921. Leaming is wonderful to work with, whether you are a first-time visitor to her store or a loyal customer she knows by name.
“There’s really nothing more satisfying,” she says. “I often say that I feel so fortunate to have inherited a family business that’s not only about customer satisfaction, but about how truly happy each customer is when they leave the store.”
Next to Forney’s is Forney’s Too (102 W. Loockerman St., 734-2425), which started when Judi Leaming detected a shift in buying. Forney’s Too thus specializes in home decor and decorating, candles, and a great selection of Vera Bradley handbags.
Among manager Gary Knox’s offering of non-traditional jewelry are Trollbeads, a Scandinavian creation that has become a rage in the
“Trollbeads is unique jewelry,” Knox says. “Each bead has its own little history, taking its inspiration from mythology, astrology, fairy tales, fauna, flora, cultural diversity, and last but certainly not least, in the familiar things of everyday living.”
Today 18 internationally renowned jewelry designers create the beads. There are more than 200 kinds available at Forney’s Too so customers can design their own jewelry.
Forney’s Too also carries various home-designed collectibles, including items made by Cat’s Meow and Hometowne, as well as popular Willow Tree angels. Douglas Paquette sandals are hot. And Forney’s Too is the place for Uglydolls.
Delaware Made General Store
Next to Forney’s Too, you can find most anything specific to Delaware and made in Delaware in the aptly named Delaware Made (32 W. Loockerman St., 736-1419).
Owner Tom Smith touts a wonderful array of craft items by local artisans, as well as prints by H. Earl Abbott Jr. and Hank Smallwood Smith’s interest in history, pride in his native Delaware, and early retail experience prompted him to open Delaware Made. In addition to crafts, the cozy store offers Delaware apparel of every description, tote bags, mugs, wall hangings and more.
Smith believes shoppers will be happily surprised at the diversity of the shops and merchandise in Dover. “A person can easily spend a full day shopping in downtown Dover and find nearly everything they would want for their homes or for gifts for others,” he says. “Plus, we have some great restaurants.”
The Dover Art League
Dover Art League (21 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 674-0402) is a gem of a gallery that offers raku pottery, fused glass works, jewelry, wood carvings, marble sculpture and giclee prints, plus memorable exhibitions. “What’s really nice about our location is that we are close to the museums,” says executive director William H. “Hank” Smallwood. “A person can make a day of shopping—a weekend really—of shopping and visiting the museums.”
Art aficionados can find beautiful work at Raubacher Gallery (123 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 678-0968), both by beloved local Delaware artist Jack Lewis and owner Rebecca Raubacher, who specializes in bold, energetic paintings of horses. “Horse people are amazed on the movement of the animal and how anatomically correct the work is,” says co-owner Chris Raubacher, Becky’s husband. “People who understand horses are big fans of her art work.”
Raubacher’s paintings and drawings have been exhibited in one-person shows, most recently at the Leslie Cecil Gallery in New York City, and in museum exhibits such as “The Face” at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her work is also included in important private, corporate and museum collections such as the New York Stock Exchange. But the real business at Raubacher is custom framing.
For cyclists and skateboarders, a visit to Eugene and Daniel Stone’s Bike Werx (142 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 674-4488) is a must.
The store stocks bicycles from Trek, Schwinn, GT and more for everyone from casual riders to hardcore racers. Skateboarders can find a fine variety of boards by Element and Plan B. And there’s clothing both skaters and cyclists by makers such as Fox and Troy Lee.
Bike Werx does repairs on the premises and carries all the accessories cyclists and skateboarders need. In addition to manning the store, Eugene Stone is involved with a committee from Dover who is working with the city to create a skateboard park.
At Beyond Dimensions (59 S. Governors Ave., Dover, 674-9070), the motto is “only what we love and respect, not what we think will sell.”
On the edge of Dover’s Victorian district, Beyond Dimensions features jewelry, metal works, glass, porcelain, pottery, and more by several hundred artists and crafters. Most have been have awarded a place in the prestigious Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, where artists exhibit their work to craft retailers across the country.
The shop contains everything from whimsical to elegantly sophisticated. Jewelry by architect Arden Bardol, John and Linda Whitney, and Sylvan Spirit are among items this beautiful store in the pink house features.