Ocean City Today

Dunes Manor Hotel celebrates 30 years in resort

By Kara Hallissey | May 18, 2017
On April Fool’s Day in 1987, 74-year-old Thelma Conner opened Dunes Manor Hotel on 28th Street.

(May 19, 2017) On April Fool’s Day in 1987, 74-year-old Thelma Conner opened Dunes Manor Hotel with the intent on providing superb hospitality experience in an old-Victorian charm atmosphere. Thirty years later, her traditions continue on 28th Street.

“A lot of hotels in Ocean City have changed or evolved,” said Joanne Cunningham, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “Miss Conner’s vision still remains and everyone feels it. We want to continue to support and carry her visions forward.”

Guests can wake up to oceanfront views from rocking chairs on the front porch, meet a new friend during daily tea and crumpet hour in the lobby at 3 p.m. or catch Shirley Toms play the piano on weekend nights from 7-10 p.m.

The Dunes Manor Hotel has 170 oceanfront rooms with free Wi-Fi and private balconies. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, meeting rooms, the Victorian Room Restaurant and the Zippy Lewis Lounge bar. An outdoor beach bar also sells food and drinks during the summer.

“This property has a natural charm that Miss Conner built over time,” said General Manager James Garcia. “Guests want it to stay the same and it’s a tradition that has carried on. When I talk to customers, nine out of ten say they came as a child and are now bringing their kids back to experience [Dunes Manor].”

Free family activities are slated at the hotel this summer for guests such as cornhole, scavenger hunts, cupcake decorating, swimming with mermaids, a Mad Hatter-themed tea time for kids and family photos. A pirate from Jolly Rogers will also stop by. In addition, there are a number of social media contests.

In 1940, when Conner was in her 30s, she moved to Ocean City with her husband, Milton, to work at his family’s Hasting’s Miramar Hotel.

“What she learned about guest interaction and activity from working at Hastings made for a memorable experience [for hotel guests at Dunes Manor],” Cunningham said. “Filling the lobby with a lot of seating and making sure guests are comfortable while getting to know each other during afternoon tea. Hotel guests and the community knew Miss Conner. She would come out, mingle with guests and serve tea.”

The Conner’s decided to purchase the Dunes Manor Court property in 1974, which currently has 49 newly-renovated rooms, just steps from the beach on 28th Street.

“The Court received the biggest transformation to enhance the experience for the customer [in recent months],” Garcia said. “Bringing the property up-to-date demonstrates the owner’s commitment to invest.”

By 1977, Thelma and Milton Conner built the Dunes Manor Suites. Currently, the property has 64 rooms with ocean-facing balconies, spacious bedrooms and a full kitchenette.

“They always wanted a Victorian hotel and 10 years later, Thelma builds Dunes Manor,” said William Mariner, current owner of Dunes Manor Hotel along with his wife, Susan, and Conner’s three daughters and their families.

Unfortunately, Milton died in 1979. But Thelma brought their idea to life on April 1, 1987 using inherited land on 28th Street.

“Lots of folks in Ocean City told Thelma that a 74-year-old woman couldn’t possibly launch and run a 170-room hotel, but she believed that she could, and the Dunes’ enduring success has proved all her doubters wrong,” Garcia said. “With so many naysayers calling her decision foolish, her sly sense of humor was on display when she decided to officially open the hotel on April Fool’s Day.”

More than one million guests have stayed at the Dunes Manor property with second and third generations of families coming back to visit each year.

“I have never worked at a property that has shown the true meaning of an emotional connection like Dunes Manor,” Garcia said. “People came as a child and come back with their own. It has such appeal and they want their children to experience and embrace those traditions.”

For more information or to book a room, visit dunesmanor.com or call 410-289-1100.

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