New look, name for Hamlet Shopping Center

DOVER — While the Hamlet Shopping Center is not entering the United States Federal Witness Protection Program, it is getting a completely new look and a new name.

Paul M. Pantano, who became owner of the Hamlet Shopping Center at 1035 Walker Road in Dover five years ago, is hoping to revitalize the complex with an outside refurbishing of its stores that is expected to get underway next week and take around four months to complete.

Mr. Pantano said he hopes the project will breathe new life and bring a positive energy to the aging shopping/restaurant complex that opened in 1988. The finished product will be rebranded as “The Shoppes at Hamlet.”
“We just thought it was time for a change and that it was good opportunity that while we’re giving it a new look, we’ll also give it a new name, while maintaining the tradition of ‘Hamlet’ in it,” said Mr. Pantano, of Wilmington-based PRE Holding Hampstead. “We see this an opportunity to build some positive vibes around the shopping center.”

The largest part of the shopping center’s re-imagining will include replacing the original gray-colored wood siding with modern fiber cement plank-type siding.

Mr. Pantano said he is excited about bringing a more uniformed look to the complex.

“Our new look will sort of create individual tenant’s spaces that will hopefully be visually appealing and will be clearly define each tenant’s space,” he said. “Hopefully, we can resolve three vacant buildings that we currently have on the property and the bank property in the parking lot that I acquired 10 months ago.

Hamlet Shopping Center in Dover.

“The new look will create distinct and colorful building sections that will better define the merchants’ space and will be much more visually appealing. The work should be getting underway next week.”
The project will also include improved exterior lighting with LED lights and attractive light fixtures that will be installed to create a safer and brighter environment for store employees and customers, especially when it’s dark outside.

Mr. Pantano said he will also be eliminating the existing canopies that cover the entrances to many of the stores and restaurants in the shopping center. They will be replaced by colorful awnings that will be installed above select windows and the entrance to each suite.

He believes the eye-catching awnings will enhance the overall look of the center, which will help entice the community to stop in.
“I think the big idea is to make it look different,” said Mr. Pantano. “It’s due for an update. The original cedar siding is really aging, and it would get expensive for the tenants to continue to maintain that. I’m bearing the cost of the renovations.”

The Hamlet Shopping Center had faced troubled times in years past with many burglaries and other issues, a large portion of them stemming from a now-closed 7-11 convenience store that sat on the east side of the complex.

Mr. Pantano bought the shopping center a little more than five years ago and said he doesn’t believe there has been any serious trouble there since he installed several security cameras outside of the businesses.
Tom Armstrong, who has owned the Tom’s Bullpen sports bar on the west edge of the Hamlet Shopping Center for the past six years, said he is excited about the changes that are coming.

“It’s going to be good,” Mr. Armstrong said. “It’s going to make this place look a lot better than it did. Everything needs to be done on the outside and (Mr. Pantano’s) trying to bring the shopping center into line with way other shopping facilities look nowadays.

“I love the better lighting that is coming, and I love the new blacktop they’re going to put down in the parking lots, because the old blacktop is cracking and showing signs of its age. He’s going to get rid of some of these old overhangs and I think it’s really going to dress up the place pretty nice.”

Besides Tom’s Bullpen, the Hamlet Shopping Center is also home to a Metro PCS, Dollar General store, Great China restaurant, Roma Pizza, Hamlet Wine and Spirits, Guitar Pro Shops store and the Luxe Hair Bar by DeSarai. The complex sits on four acres and has 100 surface parking spaces.

While Mr. Armstrong is pleased at the renovations that will be taking place at the shopping center, he does wish that Mr. Pantano would consider putting up a fence between the complex and the surrounding Hamlet neighborhood.

He did admit things have been improving.

“The shopping center used to have a bad reputation out here all the time, but it has changed over the years,” said Mr. Armstrong. “You still have people hang out in front of the liquor store and stuff like that, but overall, it’s gotten a lot better.”

As for that fence, Mr. Pantano said, “I’m just not a believer that fences make good neighbors.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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