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Downtown Milford ...

Downtown Milford Delaware

Photos: Top, a view from the south end of downtown Milford. Below, the Riverfront Theater along the Riverwalk.

Special to Sussex County Online

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MILFORD -- A shopping trip along Milford's Walnut Street has changed over the years, but not by much. Most Walnut Street merchants have labored to provide their customers with that little something extra that keeps them coming back.

The downtown area has undergone a major transformation over the past two decades with the addition of the Riverwalk along the Mispillion River and the introduction of new businesses. Much of that transformation has been under the guise of Downtown Milford, Inc., an organization dedicated to preserving the downtown shopping district.

One of the newer businesses, for instance, is All Custom Embroidery, an embroidery shop that specializes in embroidery for organizations such as associations, businesses, schools, recreational leagues, and cheerleaders.

Owner Debbie Troyer says she has a no-minimum policy so that even the smallest organization can afford to have its own personalized embroidered items for promotions or fund-raisers.

Troyer also sells pre-embroidered items like Major League Baseball, NFL and NASCAR caps, personalized photo shirts, sports bags and blankets.

A great place to eat, on the other side of the street and up the block a bit, is Sonny's Garden City Cafe. Sonny's offers traditional homemade meals like meat loaf, seafood platters and fried chicken, to name just a few. Daily lunch and dinner specials make dining at the smoke-free cafe even more tempting.

This restaurant has booths, tables, and a lunch bar to accommodate many diners. Both places offer takeout for customers who are pressed for time.

At Lou's Bootery, Skip and Steve Pikus, second and third generation businessmen, respectively, strive to make their shoe store a place where customers know they are important and will get quality shoes for themselves and their children.

Riverfront Theater, Milford DelawareThe business is celebrating 52 years on the corner of Walnut Street. Lou's Bootery has been in operation the longest on Walnut Street, but another business that has now located downtown is a year older.

The Marvel Agency is 53 years old and moved to Walnut Street about 38 years ago.

The Marvel Agency began when Harvey and Violet Marvel started selling insurance from the living room of their home in 1946. A year later, the business branched out to include real estate.

The home based business grew over the next 12 years and moved to its current location where the two-person operation increased to a staff of more than 25.

Many new businesses have moved in replacing the old. Some of the new businesses have brought a bit of the past with them.

Riverfront Treasures, a collectibles shop owned by Carole Richardson, has many items from more than 20 vendors who sell a variety of items with the stock changing daily.

In addition to the wonderful displays she currently has, Carole plans to add two specialty rooms soon. One room will feature only antique linens and the other vintage clothing.

Down the street, Secondhand Prose is a fabulous two-story bookstore that carries over 10,000 titles in all genres from science fiction to biographies to how-to books. It also carries antique school and recipe books.

The store has several comfortable sofas so customers can leisurely examine interesting books and magazines more closely. Secondhand Prose is a great place to recycle books. It often buys or trades most books, and it welcomes inquiries.

Wiley Fuel and Appliance is 44 years old and relocated to the downtown area in 1973. Bill Wiley, along with his wife, Mary, and their two sons, Joe and Dave, moved the business into an old hardware store and added another facet to their diverse enterprise -- an appliance and hardware store.

Hardware has been a traditional business in the Wiley's business, dating to the 1800s. The building has often had other products for sale as it did when the Pierce Brothers operated it near the turn of the century. The brothers sold farm equipment and feed in addition to the hardware business. Bill said that in a successful business like his, diversification is necessary.

The Wileys have added their own personal preferences to the wares they sell. Mary found a catalogue company that sells quality items at very reasonable prices and ships them quickly to the store. Bill said his family has diligently worked in the business to serve the community to the best of its ability and as his sons take over the fuel business, he is confident the tradition of quality service will carry on.

Internet Working Technology is a new downtown company that mainly caters in business to business computer products. It sells hardware and software items to help make businesses operate smoother. Technicians will set up the new hardware and offer minimal training on the new software for businesses.

Another downtown eatery is A Second Cup, a combination coffee shop and bakery that offers breakfast foods, soups, and quiches. It has indoor seating and a back door patio that faces the Riverwalk. An awning provides shade to outdoor diners during the warmer days.

Barbara and her employees are delighted to cater many events including breakfast meetings and weddings. She enjoys finding recipes for baked goods requested by her regular customers. Even more gratifying, is when customers ask her to make one of their favorite family recipes.

In addition to all these great tangible services available to Milfordians, two very special places offer learning and entertainment.

Riverfront Theater is a community based group that offers auditions to people who want to perform on the stage or participate in making an entertaining production.

The Delaware Music Academy, meanwhile, offers classes for all ages. It has music classes for infants to adults with instruction in everything from rhythm to voice to instruments. The academy has many financing options available for students.

With Walnut Street offering so many wonderful and useful services, the downtown tradition carries on while changing to meet the current needs of both customers and new business owners.

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