The Ultimate Guide to Networking
In Delaware, it's not trite to say that it's not what you know, it's who you know. The beauty of the First State is that you can find anyone anywhere at any time. You want to be a player? Here are some of the people you need to know and the places where y
Photographs By Luigi Ciuffetelli
Start Every Day
with a Good Breakfast
Former DuPont CEO Ed Woolard once told John Vouras this: If you want to find the root of a problem, go to the bottom man on the ladder. Which may explain why Woolard is a regular at Vouras' landmark Kozy Korner in Wilmington. The 85-year-old institution is intimate, homey and inexpensive. In other words, it's a typical neighborhood eatery where typical people eat. Yet that neighborhood is larger than one might think. Situated on Union Street, just blocks from Pennsylvania Avenue, it's a quick detour off the main driving route for Greenville execs on their way to work in town, so it draws an all-star clientele, as well as U.S. Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper, Congressman Mike Castle, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons and Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker.
A few other breakfast nooks where you can ham and egg it with some of the state's best and brightest:
At Angelo's Luncheonette in Wilmington, diners come for the camaraderie and owner August Muzzi's grill-side manner. Ultimate watchdog John Flaherty of Common Cause has been known to pour the coffee. Regulars include former Wilmington mayor Bill McLaughlin. WDEL personality Gerry Fulcher, popular pugilist Michael "No Joke" Stewart and a smattering of Bidens show up now and again.
Dunkin' Donuts at 141 and Faulkland Road in Wilmington is a favorite of Happy Harry's CEO Alan Levin, real estate guru Bruce White Jr. and former state senator Phil Corrozi.
Speaking of pols and politics, Arner's Family Restaurant in New Castle draws luminaries such as Governor Ruth Ann Minner, Speaker of the House Terry Spence, former congressional candidate Dennis Spivack and New Castle County Executive Chris Coons. Senator Tom Carper is a regular on Election Day because, he says, the restaurant is his "lucky charm."
Looking for an autograph? At Brew Ha Ha! on Eighth and Market streets in Wilmington, former barista Sarah Titus has served celebs like Arlo Guthrie, Jasmine Guy and Cindi Lauper, along with Delaware Symphony Orchestra conductor David Amado. Trouble with your checking account? A host of local bank execs caffeinate themselves here, as does "practically the entire Attorney General's office in Wilmington," as well as Capano prosecutor Pete Letang. Another Capano prosecution player, former deputy U.S. attorney Ferris Wharton, prefers the Brew Ha Ha! in Trolley Square.
On many Friday mornings, the IHOP in Dover hosts the who's who of the capital city. Regulars include businessman John Friedman, who is the Central Delaware Chamber board chair and the head of the Dover Planning Commission, former governor Sherman Tribbitt, Dover city manager Tony DePrima, developer L.D. Shank and Senator John Still, among others.
The Seaford Eagle Diner doubles as a church on Wednesdays at 6 a.m. The weekly prayer service is a prime place to find local politicians, including Mayor Ed Butler, along with philanthropist-businessman Larry Manlove.
A stop at Britt's Dutch Inn in Laurel can put you in touch with State Representative Biff Lee. Sussex County Council president Dale Dukes is another regular. If it's a Republican councilman you seek, Vance Phillips' place is The Pit on U.S. 113 in Laurel.
Lunch Specials, Special Lunches
Atmosphere, privacy and quality service all play a part in one's choice of place for power lunch. In Wilmington, that place is often Deep Blue. Consider the neighborhood: One Rodney Square, the Nemours building, the Community Services Building, the new 500 Delaware Avenue building and more of the city's hottest business addresses are all within walking distance, which means you'll often find the state's biggest bankers and lawyers at lunch. The holy trinity of Castle, Carper and Biden all enjoy the place, and pro golfer Phil Mickelson liked the ahi (though getting a golf tip is a long shot). One random lunch revealed New Castle County Chamber of Commerce director Mark Kleinschmidt and former Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter. A few more places to seal a deal:
Carol Ann Weisenfeld, host of WDEL's weekly "Pathways to Service," and other members of the Forum for Executive Women meet monthly at Krazy Kats in Montchanin. Why? Attentive service and a taste of indulgence—and they had the good sense and taste to pick the place long before Travel and Leisure named the inn one of the finest in the world.
In Lewes, Beebe Medical Center execs such as president and CEO Jeffrey Fried frequent the cozy Café Azafran for tapas, as does University of Delaware College of Marine Studies dean Nancy Targett and Delaware River and Bay Authority director Jim Johnson.
It is a government by the people, for the people, and so is the cafeteria on the ground floor of Legislative Hall. Little-known fact: it's open to anyone. So if you need to do some informal lobbying among members of the House and Senate, as well as their lawyers, drop by for some homemade soup and wait. You can also touch base with top lobbyists such as Dover's own Mary Davis and Wilmington's Bobby Byrd. While you're eating, listen attentively—you never know what you might hear among this crowd. The joint opens at 9 a.m. and seating is limited.
Gone is the Blue Coat Inn. Long gone is the Dinner Bell Inn. That makes 33 West the capital city's most happening place. The bistro's location on Loockerman Street in downtown Dover is convenient for many state workers and their bosses. On any given day, you might find state cabinet secretaries and division directors. You'll also run into old Dover powers such as Merrill Lynch senior broker Joe McDaniel, power attorney Rick Barros and architect-historian Terry Jackson. Another heavy hitter: philanthropist Wayne Holden. No luck at 33 West? Try iconic W.T. Smither's.
If you need to enlist help battling with the cable company or simply want to know the people who monitor public utilities and telecom providers, you'll likely find commissioners of the state Public Service Commission at the Lobby House in Dover. During the legislative session, you'll also find key members of Governor Ruth Ann Minner's staff, such as chief of staff Mark Brainard, as well as state budget director Jennifer "J.J." Davis.
When the infamous Disney "House of Mouse" trial was fought in the Court of Chancery in Georgetown, Dominick Dunne wrote in Vanity Fair that Smith's Family Restaurant was "the noontime hub of activity." No doubt, the former Smith's (now named the Georgetown Family Restaurant) is where the who's who of the Sussex County seat take a seat for lunch. When the big trials hit town, upstaters such as defense attorney Joe Hurley and U.S. Attorney Colm Connelly know they can find such legal luminaries as state Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland, state Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes, Chief Magistrate Alan Davis and U.S. Marshal Dave Thomas there. But beware: The decision of one case was overturned after it was discovered that a juror broke bread with a witness from the same trial.
Drinks, Dinners and Deals
Location, location, location. W.T. Smither's is smack-dab in the center of Dover, so you can always count on seeing someone there. Friday happy hours are where the networking begins. You're liable to find megadeveloper Mike Zimmerman, Kent County economic development guru Dan Wolfensberger, and power couples such as Mark and Kris Stonesifer and Bill and Lynne Schaefer there. New to town? Once you've chaired your first gala or worked on a fundraiser, you, too, can be a somebody. Just ask man-about-town Ricky Pryor (you can find him at any party), or longtime mover Tonda Parks, a corporate events director for the American Heart Association and Delaware Solid Waste Authority commissioner, and her husband, real estate juggernaut Joe Parks. (The pair started the Kent County Heart Ball 21 years ago.)
More dinner-hour hook-ups:
It's not just the history of the 185-year-old private dining club known as University and Whist Club that draws top New Castle County top wheelers and dealers such as ING chairman, president and CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann, Emory Hill founder Robert Hill, EDiS president Ted Dwyer and Wilmington Trust president Bob Harra. (Virtually all the bank's corporate officers are members.) Great food and a traditional atmosphere make it a favorite for area Rotarians and Delaware State Chamber of Commerce affairs. Want to be a member? Just know two current members who'll stake their reputation on yours.
When owner Xavier Teixido designed Harry's Seafood Grill on Wilmington's riverfront, he asked local execs and pols what they liked in a restaurant. Some preferred to be seen, such as the late U.S. Senator Bill Roth and former baseball great Rusty Staub, who enjoyed gentle barbs from Phillies fans during his last visit. Others, however, preferred privacy, such as Joe Biden, who kept an unusually low profile while escorting U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton there. Riverfront Development Corporation execs dine there, natch, and often catch Teixido up on Democratic politics. For Republican doings, he keeps an ear to the bar at venerable Harry's Savoy Grill, ground zero for local political fundraisers and Brandywine Hundred business meetings.
It's tough to identify a who's who in Rehoboth Beach among the summer crowds, but during Tuesday nights off-season, it's far easier. Head to Nicola's Pizza on First Street for half-price pasta night, which draws judges, mayors and other elected officials. Various Bidens have been seen here, along with Governor Ruth Ann Minner's sons. Star-gazing? The home of the Nic-O-Boli has hosted "Mad Money's" Jim Cramer, "Seinfeld's" Estelle Harris, Kathy Lee Gifford, Ted Koppel, Chelsea Clinton and former Nixon attorney general Ed Meese.
In Middletown, it's still all about real estate, making Maynard's Piano Bar the place to say you saw so-and-so last night, including Milton Delgado and Hector Correa of DelCor Home Interiors and Fred Munzert of the Premiere Center for the Arts.
Perhaps it's the word "cool" in its name, but Cool Springs Fish Bar and Restaraunt in Dover is the place to find the people who get it done. To drop a few names: Bill and Mary Jane Willis of the Willis chain of car dealerships, Chris Anderson of Dover Pools, Central Delaware Chamber chief Judy Diogo, and lobbyist Mary Davis.
People dine at Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth Beach because of its great seafood, of course, but also to see and be seen. Diners include former Superior Court judge Bill Lee, Realtor Bill Lingo and the builder-developer team of brothers Chris and Preston Schell.
Here it comes again: Montchanin Inn. It's a favorite of Delaware State Chamber of Commerce president and CEO James Wolfe and many chamber officers.
Success in business here breeds a kind of nervous energy. Many executives and entrepreneurs choose to channel it through non-profit boards and organizations. So to sit on the board of a hospital, for example, is to be respected. State Elections Commissioner Frank Calio, whose many board memberships have included that of Nanticoke Memorial in Seaford, says a hospital board is one on which you can make a visible difference. "You're working for the community," he says. "You bring in doctors, new technologies, new procedures. You can see the difference." Which other boards are popular?
Check the roster of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce board and its Delaware Business Roundtable to identify the state's top 50 business executives. This is the