Enjoying the Taste of Sweet Success: Chuck Stanko and George Carroll
Alabama-born George Carroll always wanted to be a baker. But you wouldn’t have known it unless you asked, because not even once during his successful career with retail apparel giant Levi’s was he ever asked to ice a cake or fill an éclair. And the same could be said for his position as regional manager for a housewares chain. But as he built and staffed Levi’s outlets, pushed glassware, towels, and “as seen on TV” treasures at Boston Bed and Bath, he always knew that for him, baking would be a labor of love. He and his partner Chuck Stanko even opened a bed and breakfast for a time, with George whippin’ up morning fare like pastries and muffins. But that was the only part either of them liked, so they eventually abandoned the idea.
Chuck was born in Pennsylvania, and spent over 20 years producing graphics and otherwise being the jack-of-all-trades for the Cape Cod Chronicle newspaper. Both guys lived in Chatham on Cape Cod, but there was one small thing standing in their way: Chuck had yet to come out (details, details…). The same, however, did not apply to George, who, in Chuck’s words, “…had been out a lot longer than I.” (I chose to ignore Chuck’s emphasis on the words, “…a lot longer.”) But though George was totally comfortable with being who he was, he was immersed in his career and simply didn’t have much time to get out there and meet people.
Fortunately for us (and ultimately for anyone in Milford, Delaware with a sweet tooth), George actually found some time to get out and have a little fun. Serendipitously, Chuck picked the day before that (yup, the very day before) to come out. Not one to dawdle, within a matter of hours he found himself marching into a gay bar in Hyannis. And, across the proverbial crowded room, he saw George. Chuck’s single life ended just a few hours after it started, and the two men have been partners and best friends ever since.
The time finally came for a change of venue, and deep down they both knew that a bakery was in their future. They researched every state, looking for the perfect spot. High on the list was the preservation of their small-town existence near the water, so after much research they finally settled on Milford. They loved the proximity to the ocean and the laid-back personality of the garden town that straddles Kent and Sussex counties. And, it didn’t have a bakery. So, in 2003, after several false starts and remodeling of spaces that ended up not being suitable, George’s dream finally came true on North Walnut St. And its name is Dolcé.
These guys are nothing if not creative. In addition to being a coffee shop, ice cream parlor, and a local hangout, Dolcé is also a venue for George’s signature recipes. One of the most delicious is the Philadelphia Buttercake. They hadn’t been open for a week when a customer urged them to fabricate their own version of this impossibly rich confection. Ten years later, the enchanted amalgam of cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla, and cream is still a best-seller. Words can’t do it justice.
Another exceptional bite that George created is the Gooey Chocolate Cookie. And that’s not just my opinion: This cross between chocolate pudding and a brownie has secured Second Place at the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival for the last three years. Interestingly enough, as deeply rich as it is, it is gluten-free (for those allergic to that wheat protein) and almost completely fat-free. Now before you gobble up a dozen for dinner, keep in mind that there is some sugar in there. Another best-seller is the Breakfast Cookie. This one is of the oatmeal-raisin persuasion, but with almonds and Grape-Nuts thrown in for a breakfasty slant. In fact, were it not for the nuts, it would be virtually fat-free. But it sure doesn’t taste like it.
Chuck and George have also earned the distinction of being one of the few retail outlets to sell Steve Kogler’s Old World Breads, heretofore available only at some of the local farmers’ markets. As an aside, the sourdough is better than any I’ve ever had, and the country loaf works for everything from sandwiches to paninis to croutons to just tearin’ off a hunk and munching it with a dollop of unsalted butter. Another labor of love, you see. Birds of a feather….
This year’s Chocolate Festival bestowed even more awards on Dolcé. They took First Place for the Stick in the Mud Brownie, Second Place for the Gooey Chocolate Cookie (of course) and Third Place went to the Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake. If the Philadelphia Buttercake contained chocolate, I suspect it would have thrown the festival into chaos.
These guys pulled up stakes and walked away from successful careers in Massachusetts to risk opening a brand new business in a brand new place. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. And their success over the last ten years has been phenomenal. If you haven’t yet met Chuck and George, give Dolcé a try. As you savor the sweetness of their success, remember: Don’t forget the bread!
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek