It’s a typical Saturday afternoon at Byler’s Store in Dover as customers politely repeat “excuse me” and jostle past each other to get what they want.
And what do they want? It could be anything from hazelnut butter to scented candles to a kitchen stove.
The 20,000-square-foot retail store is one of the unique shops that draw people to Kent County. Here’s a closer look at that shop, as well as Haass Family Butcher Shop and flea market Spence’s Bazaar, that you can only find in Kent County.
In an age of big-box chains, it’s not often that you will find a mom-and-pop store where you can pick up everything from homemade subs to hand-crafted wood items, outdoor furniture, fireplaces and a carton of milk.
But Byler’s (1368 Rose Valley School Road, Dover, 674-1689) has provided all that since 1974. And amid last year’s recession, the superstore opened a second location in Harrington. The Dover company employs 100.
Its core clients are locals who shop at the store on a regular basis, owner Lyndon Byler says. But the store also pulls customers from Maryland and Pennsylvania. People learn about the store mostly through word of mouth.
Lyndon’s parents, Joe and Amanda Byler, started the store as a closeout grocery store. The other components—the deli, bakery and country gifts—evolved in stages and as the elder Bylers sought new business opportunities to help support their nine kids.
“As a small family-owned business, you put in whatever you can sell,” Lyndon Byler says.
The Bylers found that country gifts sold well, so they added that to the mix. So did bulk foods. Today the store sells more than 200 varieties of candies and 30 types of flour.
But selling stoves? As fuel prices shot up in the 1970s, demand rose for alternative heating, so wood stoves came onto the scene. “It all started out of a need,” Lyndon Byler says.
Locals rave about the quality of cheeses and meats. “If you are a cheese-and-lunchmeat kind of person, this is where you want to go in Dover,” says one local.
The store keeps its food prices low by selling off-brand items in bulk. You can find cereals, spices, freeze-dried soups and snacks in nondescript plastic containers.
Dover retired music and art teacher Andrew Marshall III likes that he can save a few bucks on cereal and steel-cut oatmeal. “When money gets tight, Dover gets it right,” Marshall says.
Page 2: Haass Family Butcher Shop
If you ask most people nowadays to name their butcher, their answer would be Giant or Safeway. But some residents in Dover—and beyond—would say Jeff Haass, owner of Haass Family Butcher Shop.
In business for 55 years, the shop sells beef, pork, and chicken from a 40-feet-long display case. Bacon and ham are cured in its on-site smokehouse. The store even makes its own scrapple and sausage from a secret family recipe.
That could be why Haass (3997 Hazletville Road, Dover, 734-5447) draws customers from 100 miles away. Not only a favorite in Kent County, the store attracts meat lovers in South Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, Haass says.
Most of the advertising has been word-of-mouth. Only recently did the store start its own website (westdoverbutchershop.com).
“We’re an old-fashioned butcher shop where you can still pick out meats in a showcase,” says Haass, a fourth-generation butcher. His father and aunt started the business. It hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1955, save for some remodeling along the years.
Though the retail store is 1,500 square feet, the total facility totals 12,000 square feet, allowing room for cutting and a processing room where a USDA inspector examines the meats.
What’s the secret to their success? Selection and value, Haass says. “We stand behind what we sell.”
Marydel resident Calvin Stansbury goes to Haass because the staff knows him by name and keeps fresh quality meat ready and available.
“Everyone seems very friendly and they seem to be organized,” Stansbury says.
Page 3: Spence’s Bazaar
Log onto travel website Tripadvisor.com and check out Dover’s top attractions.
Now, scroll down to No. 4.
Just after Dover International Speedway and one spot above the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village is a live auction and flea market called Spence’s Bazaar (550 S. New St., Dover, 734-3441).
On every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, you’ll find Amish-baked goods and produce, jewelry, DVDs, live chickens and a whole lot more sold inside a barn or outside on tables. Locals refer to it simply as “The Sale.”
The store opened in 1933 by Harry Spence and his son Ralph. Ralph’s children, Gregory, Ann and Phyllis, all worked in the business as well.
“Everything here is a bargain, and that’s what everyone looks for,” says Jack Scott, one of the store’s owners. Scott married the late Ann Spence.
People travel from as far as Texas, North Carolina and Maine to snatch up antiques, tools and glassware at the auction, Scott says.
Summer is the busiest time, when the store can get as many as 1,000 visitors on a nice day.
You won’t see that anywhere else.