Beyond the Bay: Dumser’s Dairyland is cool blast from past

WASHINGTON — It should be clear by now that any trip to the beach involves more than just sand and surf. The reason people keep visiting the Delmarva coast has as much to do with the food as it does with taking a cool dip in the mid-Atlantic ocean.

And whether you’re on the boardwalks of Maryland or Delaware, you have no shortage of beach-cuisine staples —  the enormous buckets of french fries, greasy slices of pizza and, of course, the ice cream cone.

For decades, one cone, in particular, has stood out as a favorite for visitors to Ocean City, Maryland: Dumser’s Dairyland, the ice cream parlor founded in 1939 by the late Gladys Dumser.

“Her main point was fresh ice cream. Everything is made and sold the same day, and that’s our main product, just making it and selling it the same day, keeping it fresh,” said Donald Timmons, who owns the iconic ice cream stands that started on Ocean City’s boardwalk and now dot the resort town.

Asked just how many ice cream cones get scooped and served every day in the summer, Timmons said he could only estimate a number in the thousands.

“Our biggest sellers are the hand-dipped ice-cream,” Timmons said. “We have a factory on Worcester Street right now where we make everything here and ship it out to each of the stores. We’re only in Ocean City. You have to come here to get it.”

What started as a simple stand on the boardwalk has now grown into seven locations up and down Coastal Highway and U.S. 50 in West Ocean City.

“I bought the Dumser name in 1981,” Timmons said.

Timmons, who’s originally from Ocean View, Delaware, said his first job in town was making saltwater taffy with Dolle’s. He later ran another ice cream stand on the boardwalk before taking over Dumser’s, which, at the time, had only one leased location on the boardwalk.

Since then he’s expanded the company, growing to seven locations. Dumser’s has restaurants at 49th Street and 123rd Street, as well as in West Ocean City and smaller stands on the boardwalk.

Judging by the lines you have to wait in to get a cone, it’s not seen as too much of a good thing.

He said that by catering to families who “really built Ocean City,” Dumser’s has been able to sustain the sort of success few other businesses know.

“You just keep everything honest. Our business is based on quality, quantity, at a fair price,” Timmons said. “We’re not a cheap price, but we’re a fair price for what we give.

“We buy the best of everything that goes into the ice cream. We don’t cut any corners, and we try to give a fair amount.”

While many businesses have tried to profit beyond the beach by offering to ship their products around the country to nostalgic visitors who might not be able to get there anymore, Dumser’s is content with being an Ocean City staple.

“We’re not looking to put anything in the grocery stores,” Timmons said. “We’re not looking to expand outside of Ocean City. We want to keep it an Ocean City tradition.”

“That’s what Mrs. Dumser had originally started. We want to keep it that way.”

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