Pat Whittier and George Schaefer
When I was asked to write a column entitled “Before the Beach,” it was never actually specified just what beach I was to write about. With that in mind, my subjects for this issue actually do live at a beach; but not this one. Nonetheless, these two women made a major impact on the restaurant scene when they lived at this beach, so perhaps we should rename this particular article, “Before the Beach Before the Beach.”
Georgette Schaefer (her friends call her “George”) grew up near the Magothy River and the Chesapeake Bay in Pasadena, Maryland. Though she spent a while working for Westing-house Corp., her true love was bartending, and she attended school to perfect her craft; eventually tending bar at a big hotel in Ocean City, Md.
Pat Whittier was born in Portland, Oregon. Her formative years were spent in Minnesota, New Jersey, Wisconsin; back to New Jersey for high school and then to Wisconsin again for college. In spite of all that, her primary desire—even from childhood—was to own a restaurant. She loved the idea of casual dining—Mexican dining, in particular—and dreamed of a place where people could “throw peanut shells on the floor.”
She and her first partner, Peg Fuller, bought a little beach house at 42½ Baltimore Avenue, opening a B&B called Paper Nautilus. The hospitality business is a 24/7 job, so she moved to Rehoboth full-time in 1989. “Mexican food is my favorite food of all-time,” smiles Pat, and, with her long-term goal in mind, she moved to Tucson, Arizona to work in a Mexican restaurant. She learned every station, from dishwasher to cook to busser to server; spending her free time in libraries researching Mexican recipes. She and Peg eventually applied her newfound skills by opening a little carryout on the bottom floor of their home. They named it Dos Locos.
Her through-the-window Mexican joint was a hit, and they closed the B&B; adding indoor seating and eventually a raised addition with parking and a patio underneath. The present layout of the restaurant came to pass around ‘94 when they applied for a liquor license. The license required a certain amount of enclosed seating and would necessitate additional construction to create an actual dining room. It was around that time that Pat bought out Peg’s share of the operation. To this day they remain the best of friends.
On one fateful night at the Frogg Pond, Pat and George spied one another. It wasn’t long before George took up residence above Dos Locos, taking over the bar downstairs. Through all this, Peg still worked there; further testament to the ongoing friendship among the three women. After a rather typical arm-wrestling match between Dos Locos and Rehoboth Beach officials over the addition of 15 barstools, Pat and George decided to open a second place where George could have a real bar. Those of you of a certain age might remember Twig’s restaurant at North First St. in Rehoboth. Twig Burton was burning out on the restaurant business (it happens), and posted a crinkled little “for sale” sign in the front window.
One thing led to another, and George and Pat eventually opened Plumb Loco (they got the name from a John Wayne western). George finally got her barstools, and the women now owned two restaurants. “It was a very hectic summer,” says George, rolling her eyes. Burnout set in yet again, and at the end of the ’97 season they closed Dos Locos on Baltimore Avenue. They ran the popular Plumb Loco for four more years until one night two customers named Joe Zuber and Darryl Ciarlante spied a crinkled little sign in the front window. It proclaimed: “For sale.”
Zuber and Ciarlante scrambled to get their affairs in order and in 2001 Plumb Loco came under new ownership. “Joe was so excited that he insisted on bussing tables until the deal went through,” says Pat. It’s said that you have to be crazy to open a restaurant, and the two guys asked to change the name to Dos Locos. The women agreed, and those two crazy guys now had their own Mexican restaurant with a name that aptly described them.
In April, 2001, George and Pat retired to Little Torch Key in Florida, but, as is so often the case, the first retirement didn’t stick. Pat returned to
42½ Baltimore Avenue to open the Seafood Shack. Again, it started as a carryout, dishing up overstuffed po’boy sandwiches and fried seafood. A liquor license (complete with barstools!) was secured in ’04, and they built the business until yet another crinkly little “for sale” sign drew the attention of Shelia Savaliski and Steph DaLee, the Seafood Shack’s current proprietors.
This time the retirement stuck, and George and Pat have been livin’ and lovin’ it in Little Torch Key. They did, however, return to be officially married in Rehoboth Beach, sealing the deal on the sand last month on September 18.
Ironically, I got the idea for this article when I ran into them a couple of days after that at a restaurant—Dos Locos, of course.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek