Great BBQ, a Farm Stand, and so much more!

The Birl Family Legacy of Perseverance, Loyalty, and Creativity

The little enclave of businesses on the northwest corner of Cave Neck Road and Coastal Highway truly is a family affair. Three generations have a hand in the operation.  

University of Delaware student Sophia Birl owns the self-serve produce stand, sales based on the honor system, that she and her brother Collin refurbished. It is open every day.  Collin started the stand in the summer of 2020 but turned the business over to Sophia about a year ago. Now, Collin sells firewood.

Sophia’s parents, Katherine and Damien (a kitchen cabinet builder by trade), run the 12-year-old Smokin’ D’Z barbecue stand on weekends, her younger brother Gavin displays and sells his photography, soon to be online, and grandmother – Toni – serves as the family matriarch.  

Sophia helps her parents at the barbecue trailer that serves a take home or “eat-there” clientele enticed by live music and umbrella-covered picnic tables. She also works at the Delaware Eye Institute to augment her expenses at U of D where she is majoring in medical diagnostics. When she graduates in 2024, she plans to go to medical school to become an ophthalmologist. She would qualify in a “World’s Greatest Granddaughter Contest” for her dedication to her goals.  

When not at the Eye Institute, Sophia is ordering the stand’s produce from Calloway Farms, stocking or cleaning the stand before and after Institute hours. Thursdays, she often makes salsa, lemonade and maybe a peach cobbler using ingredients from the stand. Saturday and Sunday schedules include 9 am – 7:30 pm stints at the barbecue followed by produce stand clean up.  

Sophia credits her grandmother for much of her perseverance, and entrepreneurial aspirations. Lewes resident Toni Mancuso, always dressed to the nines, owned two beauty salons and a restaurant at a time when many women owners were an even rarer commodity. She owned her first salon back in the 70’s and, for a time, commuted from the beach to work several days a week at a salon in DC’s Watergate building.  

“My grandmother is an extremely hard worker,” said Sophia. “She has inspired me and encouraged me daily to be the best version of myself and to work hard that, one day, I will be successful. She has always been there for my family, and she has done so much for us. I am very lucky to have her. She is the best.” 

Toni’s restaurant, the Crab Claw, was where Catchers is today. Far fewer people lived in the coastal towns then and the business was seasonal. Toni says she sold it because the landlord wanted too much money for rent.  Now, at Smokin’ D’Z, Toni often helps put the food together and calls out orders to customers who line up religiously on weekends. She and Sophia are partners in a mutual admiration society.  

“Sophia is a dedicated girl who is very diligent about her studies, and she is very focused,” said Toni.  

Sophia’s decision to become an ophthalmologist stemmed from a real-life experience with her grandmother. She was in the operating room when Toni had her cataract surgery a few years ago. It made a big impression on her. So the family ties continue to influence and inspire both the new Birl generation and this little slice of lovely, lower (and thankfully, sometimes slower) Delaware.

To get your own family helping of pulled pork, produce, photography, and wood for the fireplace or personal barbecue pit come on by, and ENJOY!

By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist

Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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