There’s something familiar about a small town like Milton.
The simple houses with ornate front porches, a pair of people fishing over a small stretch of silvery water, the wail of a fire truck rushing down narrow streets.
A local bartender says the charms of the Sussex County town remind him of Mayberry, somewhere everyone knows your name.
And that feeling continues right through the doors of Milton’s new restaurant, The Dough Bar. One of the owners, Kristen Latham, shouts “happy birthday” to a customer who came in for the second time that day. Earlier, another customer stuck her head in the door asking for the bartender by name.
In a bigger town, this restaurant may be just one of many modern restaurants dishing out quality food. But, as Latham said, “here, we’re family.”
The Dough Bar, which has been solely a carryout and delivery operation for the past year, opened its doors for its first full day of dine-in business Wednesday. The owners did not advertise before the opening, and they didn’t change their business hours on Facebook and Google, but people came.
“It’s just been phenomenal,” said Marc Latham, who owns the business with his wife Kristen and their friend and business partner Stephanie Przygocki.
The trio own a handful of other restaurants, cafes and boutiques in the area. This dream to start a pizza shop started with Marc Latham, and the team took “a big leap of faith” to make it a reality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Making pizza dreams come true
One day, when Marc and Kristen Latham were sitting in a pizza shop, Marc started thinking about his dad. Growing up, Marc’s dad would talk to his brother and him about his plan to open his own pizza shop.
When Marc’s father and his brother died within two years of each other, the plan never came to fruition. But Marc held onto the dream, and as soon as he mentioned it to his wife and business partner, they got to work making it happen.
The three owners already had a growing business at The Suburban Farmhouse on Federal Street in Milton, which started as a clothing boutique and transformed into a coffee shop.
They added pizza on the menu as a “shot in the dark,” Marc Latham said, and The Dough Bar started to take form.
By Jan. 1, 2020, the Farmhouse closed because the building was sold to new owners. Since the business had already struggled with the location – they said cars have run into the site three separate times – they searched for a new spot.
They had found a small space where they planned to establish a deli-like pizza and sandwich shop, but that agreement suddenly fell through. That’s when, in February, owners of Milton’s historic mercantile building offered a much larger space.
They took it, Marc Latham said.
“I was kind of freaking out because I was like, I don’t know if I want something that big,” he said.
Before that space was ready, The Dough Bar offered carryout and delivery from its sister restaurant, The Fox Hole. The takeout option became popular among locals and Latham started to think, “maybe we can make this happen.”
The team began to expand their idea for the shop, creating a restaurant that not only specializes in gourmet pizzas, but comfort foods like meatloaf and mac and cheese that could be enjoyed with a glass of wine or beer. They created a basic breakfast menu and latte bar.
The meaning of “dough” in the name Dough Bar stretched.
Opening a restaurant during a pandemic
Before the opening, the three met with chefs once a week to sample the foods. Marc Latham said he worked side-by-side with a chef from New York for six months to perfect the recipes for the sauce and dough.
Even when they opened, Kristen Latham – a perfectionist, according to friend Przygocki – jumped from her seat as she watched a plate head toward customers. Przygocki leaned in and joked that Latham probably wanted to make sure the food is at an exact angle on the plate.
Back together, the two friends for more than 10 years looked at each other knowingly and agreed that opening a restaurant has been “scary” during the pandemic. Still, amid the extra cleaning and capacity limits, they have found some fun.
For example, the restaurant offers bubbles or “dough balls” where diners can enjoy a meal outdoors while in a heated tent. Customers said they enjoyed the different experience, saying it felt like dining in the future.
The Dough Bar is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. To make a reservation or learn more about job opportunities, call 302-386-7432 or visit The Dough Bar on Facebook.
The owners are still in the early stages of opening this location, but they have eyes on creating a Rehoboth Dough Bar at the Tanger Outlets at Surfside.
With growing customers, they are also looking for more employees.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Milton Dough Bar opens new dine-in experience after popular takeout pizza business