Dennard Quillen, who recently turned 89, looks back on “the old Rehoboth” fondly.
“It was a friendly town,” he said. “In the wintertime we only had about 500 people.”
Dennard is one of few who have lived their whole life in Rehoboth Beach. He was born in 1928 and went to Rehoboth High School, graduating in a class of just 16 people. He met his wife, Charlotte, in grade school. They’ve been married 65 years.
Dennard’s father and uncle founded one of the town’s oldest businesses, D.F. Quillen and Sons, a contracting company. The Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce recently presented Dennard with an award in honor of their 100th anniversary.
“My uncle started the business around 1915,” he said. “My father was in World War II in France. When he came back, they formed a partnership.”
Dennard picked up carpentry growing up, and, after attending vocational school and a short stint in the army, he fell into the family business.
D.F. Quillen and Sons originally operated out of the family’s Lake Avenue home and dealt mostly in residential contracting. The company built the original Rehoboth Beach bandstand and several notable beachfront homes in the North Shores area. When he was still in high school, Dennard designed the company’s first office on Sussex Street, a building that still stands today. He was 31 when his father died, leaving him to run the business.
Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce board member Dale Lomas said Dennard was devastated.
“He knew that he owed his local employees and their families a paycheck,” Lomas said. “He also knew he had to complete jobs started by his father in order to gain the respect and trust of loyal customers.”
In 1973, Quillen and Sons constructed the building that now houses The Cultured Pearl, at Rehoboth Avenue and Fourth Street. For years, the Quillens operated a True Value hardware store at that address. It was named Business of the Year by the RBDBCC in 2006. That same year, Dennard downsized the store and moved it west, to Rehoboth Avenue Extended and Hebron Road.
These days, Quillen and Sons focuses on additions and renovations and employs about 15 people.
Most of the employees have been there for quite a while. Bookkeeper Michelle Ward has been working for Quillen for about 30 years; secretary Gayle Shockley for 12. Karen Parsons has worked in the hardware store for about 10 years.
“I love Mr. Quillen,” she said. “It’s just like family around here.”