Natalie Moss and Lucilu. Photo by Kevin Fleming.
Natalie Moss: Life Is Most Definitely a Beach
Natalie Moss is not shy about where she lives. “It’s the beach that rules me,” she smiles. “It’s in my blood.” Well, that makes sense: Though she was born in Washington, D.C., she grew up in Coral Gables, Fl. Her grandfather built hotels in South Beach, and she has long-time ties—emotional and financial—to the Miami area. Though she is disentangling herself once and for all from the hassle of long-distance ownership, “I still have mixed emotions.”
When Natalie was 12, she returned to live just outside D.C. in Silver Spring, Md. A youthful crush on her junior-high band director sparked her desire to not only become a band director herself, but also to excel on multiple instruments, including guitar and saxophone. She played in dance bands, including an early ‘60s group that grew out of the Beatles’ popularity. The Playgirls was, in fact, make up entirely of girls. They billed themselves as “the longhaired band you can stand.”
The childhood crush faded, but the love of music did not. Natalie attended Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. as a music major, working for two summers as a camp counselor for the Montgomery County Department of Recreation. But there was no denying her grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit, and she found solace as an associate in the children’s and shoe departments at the sadly long-gone Woodward and Lothrop department store. “I was hooked.”
She left college to work full time at (what locals affectionately referred to as) Woodies, and was soon promoted to assistant department manager. It was a double-edged sword, however: She was stuck at that level unless she earned a college degree. But all’s well that ends well: She left that job to assume the assistant buyer position at Miss Harper, the hip women’s clothing chain. She stayed there for 14 years. Her coming out was prompted by her first same-sex experience with a lingerie buyer. “It was no big deal,” she says, “even in the ‘70s. Maybe it’s because it was the fashion industry.” Whatever it was, she worked her way up to buyer, traveling to New York City once a month and to Los Angeles twice a year. “I saw all the Broadway shows, ate at the trendiest restaurants, and drove a ’71 Corvette. Life was good!”
That was true for many people until interest rates began to rise in the early ‘80s, making it difficult for retailers to plan their purchases. Boutique-style outlets were hit the hardest, and that included Miss Harper. But Natalie Moss was ready: She took the plunge and opened her very own ice cream store in Rockville, directly across from the Montgomery Country, Md. Courthouse. The heady mix of freedom and responsibility that came from self-employment was intoxicating. She proceeded to channel her high-achieving grandfather by creating the concept, fashioning each and every recipe, churning out the product, and working day and night behind the counter. The motto at Temptations Homemade Ice Cream was: “You can resist everything except Temptations’ homemade ice cream.” (With a proper nod to Oscar Wilde, of course.)
“I figured business is business,” explains Natalie. “It’s the same whether you’re deciding how many blouses to buy or how many paper cups or chocolate sprinkles you have on hand.” So, for 11 years, she perfected what she calls the best ice cream around. Two of her flavors, Chocolate Chocolate Chip á l’Orange and Walnut Pumpkin Chiffon, were featured in a 1982 book by Carol T. Robbins entitled, The Very Best Ice Cream and Where to Find It. No wonder. Her proprietary 17% butterfat recipes were like velvet in the mouth.
It was in the late ‘60s that Natalie started visiting Rehoboth regularly, camping at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park. Tents eventually became group houses, and after she came out, she organized group houses with her gay friends. She bought her first beach house—complete with pool—in 1982. “It was paradise.”
Small-business owners know that it’s hard to make a living after all the bills get paid, so Natalie supplemented her income by preparing tax returns. Again, her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and she earned her accounting degree at the University of Maryland. She quickly achieved Enrolled Agent status (legally empowered to represent taxpayers before the IRS) and soon qualified as a full-fledged CPA—all while still running the store. She sold Temptations in 1992 and treated herself to an entire summer at the beach. “It was a dream come true.”
Natalie volunteered her services to CAMP Rehoboth, and has been the treasurer and Sundance auction chair for the last 20-plus years. She eventually moved here permanently in 2002, designing her home with the help of her chowchow-mix Lucilu and her partner Evelyn. The Rehoboth sand and shore have smiled on Natalie: It was on the beach where she and Evelyn met—almost 21 years ago.
Her successful CPA practice in Rehoboth specializes in small businesses—but entrepreneurs, before you pick up the phone, she no longer accepts new clients. “I’ve paid my dues.” Natalie Moss has definitely earned her time at, and on, the beach.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek