Ocean City businesses look to future after fire

April 01, 2008|By Chris Guy ... | Chris Guy ...,Sun reporter

OCEAN CITY -- A day after fire ravaged a popular pizza restaurant and damaged two other businesses along the oldest part of the boardwalk, owners were making plans yesterday to rebuild or repair.

Fire investigators had not yet determined a cause of the nine-alarm fire Sunday afternoon at the Dough Roller restaurant. The fire also damaged a T-shirt shop and Marty's Playland arcade, a boardwalk fixture for decades.

The blaze generated clouds of black smoke that could be seen for miles and drew spectators, who gathered across Sinepuxent Bay. Firefighters from two dozen companies in Maryland and Delaware brought the fire under control in about two hours. Officials said one firefighter suffered a minor eye wound.

Wood-framed walls were all that remained of the Dough Roller yesterday as owner Bill Gibbs spoke with his insurance company. Gibbs opened the first of five pizza restaurants in 1980 and has operated the Dough Roller on the boardwalk, at South Division Street, for 15 years.

Although contractors began demolition work yesterday, Gibbs said it is unlikely that the restaurant can be rebuilt in time for this year's vacation season.

"I think we're looking at next year sometime to open a new place," said Gibbs, a beach native who bought his first pizza operation at 23 and the Breakers Hotel at age 31. "I want to start like right now."

Gibbs, who has continued selling the popular Dayton's fried chicken at the South Division Street restaurant, said the beach favorite will likely be available at another location this summer.

The Trimper family, which has been doing business on a three-block section of the boardwalk for 120 years, hopes to have Marty's Playland operating at near normal by this weekend, said Doug Trimper.

"We lost four upstairs apartments and the arcade's Skeeball game," Trimper said. "There was only a 12-inch gap separating the outside walls of the buildings, so we're lucky it wasn't worse. We want to get started to clean up for the weekend. We were just blessed," Trimper said.

The Trimpers, according to Sandy Hurley of the Ocean City Lifesaving Museum, escaped devastation more than eight decades ago, when a fire in 1925 destroyed much of the boardwalk and its businesses. It stopped short of most of the family's holdings, which were less than a block south of the fire damage.

The Dough Roller building was built after the 1925 fire, Hurley said.

"We have been looking at some postcards from the 1930s, and that building is there," Hurley said.

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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