Dairy Queen of Clinton is expected to open to the public in early July, almost a year after it was forced to close due to an early-morning blaze that threatened to halt its 60-year legacy.
While its future was in doubt for months after a fire tore through the Waffle Kitchen and left the beloved ice cream establishment damaged, owners Bill and Tamara Peterson vowed at the beginning of 2014 that DQ would return — and last month, following some hurdles that needed to be surmounted, construction began in earnest.
That included demolition of portions of the existing building and a subsequent construction process to prep the foundation for an expansion. Work is still ongoing.
“Everybody is ready for this to get open, and we appreciate our customers. We’re sorry we haven’t been able to get this back open sooner,” property owner Bill Peterson has said. “Believe me, there is no one more than us who would like to see it open.”
An early-morning blaze on July 30, 2013 ripped through the Waffle Kitchen side of the building, a restroom exhaust fan deemed the cause. With the Waffle Kitchen owners now beginning construction on the Gristmill Restaurant on Faison Highway, which will be home to the same faces, menu items and atmosphere as the Waffle Kitchen, Dairy Queen is poised to enjoy a similar resurgence.
DQ’s expansion will preserve the history of the building — that includes the hundreds of young employees’ signatures etched into the interior facade above the customer service window over the years — while expanding it into the former Waffle Kitchen footprint.
“We will keep the history of (the building),” Peterson said last month. “We’re going to (build) on what was the Waffle Kitchen side.”
An outdoor patio area and a serving window is being constructed on that side of the building, with the wooden picnic area on the back eliminated. The DQ’s 1950s-era walk-up window in front will be preserved, as will the drive-thru window.
“The walls from the Dairy Queen will essentially be there and a side window will be opened on the Waffle Kitchen side, so one of the two walk-up windows on the front will be closed and moved to the side,” Peterson has noted.
To meet code, the existing building had to be rewired. Peterson said plumbing would be upgraded and other renovations, including a roof replacement, completed.
“As long as we were re-doing this now, we decided to go ahead and re-do the roof and several other things. Not that it was major fire damage or anything, but as long as we’re having to do this big of a project, we didn’t want to have to come back five or 10 years from now and reinvent the wheel,” he pointed out.
Peterson said he is mindful that DQ has been blessed with a great many loyal customers through the decades and does not want to lose them — it is the employees and the loyal customers who made the DQ a “Sampson County legacy,” one that will now live on.
The Petersons promised at the beginning of this year to bring back “the same Dairy Queen you have grown up with and loved, but with a new twist.”
That is about a month away from becoming a reality.
While Peterson last month did not want to attach a date to the reopening, the announcement of Dairy Queen’s target opening of early July was posted on Facebook last week.
“We’re going to come back,” said Peterson, “and we’re going to come back better.”
For updates, see the “Dairy Queen of Clinton-The Rebirth” Facebook page.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.