Welch has vision for downtown Dover

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Grey Fox Grille and Public House owner Diana Welch of Dover poses inside her newly opened establishment on Loockerman Street Wednesday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER— When Diana Welch was first introduced to downtown Dover in 1995 she fell in love with it instantly.

“I drove down this beautiful street and it was like a movie to me,” Ms. Welch said. “It struck me as so amazing and in 1995 the confidence of downtown went down a little bit, as the mall was the place everyone went.

“I’m originally from Miami,” Ms. Welch added. “I was in the Air Force and I always say I landed here by accident, but I stayed on purpose. It was such a nice community that once I got here I didn’t see any reason to leave. Everyone was saying don’t buy a business downtown, but I couldn’t help myself.”

Ms. Welch has a long history in downtown Dover: She opened the Bell, Book and Candle shop, reopened the Dover Newsstand, opened the Golden Fleece Tavern and the newly Grey Fox Grille.

“It’s crazy how all of this has happened,” Ms. Welch said. “The opportunities kept coming up to purchase other buildings downtown. It was never a plan. It just gradually happened. But I fell in love and bought my first building in 2001, which was the Bell, Book & Candle shop and I have no regrets.”

The pagan bookstore and curio shop at 115 W. Loockerman St. sold herbs, candles, books, oils and incense.

“I didn’t’ know what I was doing at all when I opened that business,” Ms. Welch said. “I didn’t have a business plan. I used to buy things and wondered how much I would have to sell my items for because I had no clue.

She said at the time she looked up information on the Internet to help her out.

“We broke all the business models that you can ever imagine, but it worked for my business partner and I.”

“All I knew was that I had this really cool vision of what I wanted to sell and what I wanted it to be and kind of step by step created that vision.”

“We struck a chord,” Ms. Welch added. “It was something that the community was looking for and we did very well.”

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Grey Fox Grille and Public House owner Diana Welch of Dover sits at a recently donated piano inside her Dover restaurant/bar.

She said she learned everything on the fly.

“My business partner and I did a lot a research,” Ms. Welch said. “By the time we started running the shop I was on it. As an owner you have to do that type of research, as you have to get smart on things like that really quick.”

She sold the business to Ivo Dominguez and James Welch just before the great recession began in 2008.

In that same year Ms. Welch reopened the Dover Newsstand, which was closed for 5 years during that time.

The original Dover Newsstand had been co-owned by Arthur Malinoski and the late Eugene Grace since 1982. The brick-front store sold 13 daily newspapers and featured a deli counter and hand-dipped ice cream, an attraction that drew many patrons through the door.

She opened the Dover Newsstand on the opposite side of Loockerman Street, which was about a block east of the original location.

“When we reopened the news stand it wasn’t the original location because that building got knocked down,” Ms. Welch said. “So when we got the opportunity to buy a café, I thought why not rename it the Dover Newsstand because it was such a legacy.”

The Dover Newsstand has since closed and is now home to the Brunch N’ Lunch, owned by Domonique Williams.

“Diana first off has a great vision for downtown,” Mr. Williams said. “She is my landlord and a very understanding one at that. She visits my store all the time and is always an ear to listen when I need some guidance.”

Some of that advice is reminding new business owners that taking care of a business is like taking care of a newborn baby.

“You go a year without a paycheck,” Ms. Welch said. “A new business is like taking care of a baby — it’s an infant. You have to feed it and watch it grow into an adult. That’s when the vision really comes alive.”

Ms. Welch credits her team for helping her with everything.

“I’m very lucky,” Ms. Welch said. I have a great team around me. Before I do anything we all sit down and discuss it. I can’t say enough about them.”
Mr. Williams said Ms. Welch has been an integral part of the continuous growth in downtown Dover.

“Without her we would never have come this far as a community,” Mr. Williams said. “I love Diana because she is a very loving person. She loves to see people do well and most of all she loves downtown Dover. We need her to continue moving forward.

Ms. Welch still owns the Golden Fleece Tavern and the newly opened Grey Fox Grille in downtown Dover and still has a vision for the future of downtown Dover.

“I want to make downtown an experience,” Ms. Welch said. “I want the Grey Fox Grille to be a networking place and I want to partner with other businesses downtown too. For example if anyone goes to the Schwartz Center they get 10 percent off of their entrée.

“That’s what we’re discussing with the other businesses as well. People can come here for lunch, shop a little downtown and then come here for dinner. Then at night they can go to one of the bars here downtown. That’s one of our goals we want people to have the ultimate downtown experience.”

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