Lori Bamis has fond memories of eating at the now torn-down Dairy Queen on Portage Trail in Cuyahoga Falls.
Bamis, 45, of Jackson Township grew up in the Falls near the DQ. When she was a teen, she and a friend would spend a lot of their babysitting money at the Dairy Queen.
"I grew up walking to the Dairy Queen," she said.
Over the decades, Bamis remained a regular customer even when she moved a county away.
"We go there once a week," she said, when she and her two children visit her parents in the Falls. She and her family require Dairy Queen ice cream cakes for family birthdays, among other things.
The Dairy Queen that has been a fixture in the Falls since the 1960s is now a pile of rubble, which being trucked away in what could be called a blizzard of activity. Demolition started last week, with the last standing wall coming down this week. The ground will be filled in, smoothed and then covered with asphalt.
But soon, Bamis and other DQ aficionados will be able to satisfy their cravings at the brand-new Dairy Queen that's been built next to the original place.
"We're excited for the new one to be there," Bamis said.
The new Dairy Queen should open in early December, maybe as soon as Dec. 1, providing there are no delays, said Karl Warther, owner and president of the group, SPGR Enterprises Inc., that since 2013 has owned that business and three other Dairy Queens in the region.
A larger Grill & Chill format
The new store is the latest Dairy Queen Grill & Chill format. Its location and bigger size solve problems that could not be fixed at the now-torn-down store, Warther said.
The Grill & Chill store design will have a double drive-thru lane, Warther said. "The double drive-thru is new for Dairy Queen."
The new drive-thru should eliminate the lines of traffic at the old store that frequently backed onto roads, he said. There also will be a larger parking lot, and the contemporary interior will also be larger, he said.
"We always wanted to build a new store," Warther said.
Getting a new store built became more urgent when the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in drive-thru customers and fewer customers in-store, he said. He and his partners – family and friends – decided last summer it was time to build. A previous owner had already done preliminary work by buying adjacent property for expansion plans.
"The business has grown and it really grew with COVID," Warther said. "The first month or so [of the pandemic], it was a ghost town. Then everyone who was cooped up went out to get ice cream."
More employees to be hired
The new store ideally will have as many as 55 to 60 employees, up from about 30 to 35 in the old store, Warther said. Day shift crew currently earn about $13 an hour; teens age 15 get $11 an hour and at age 16 get $12, he said.
"We have a great crew here," Warther said. "We have a very good network and support system."
The menu, a mix of DQ frozen desserts, grillburgers, chicken sandwiches and more, will be familiar to long-time customers, he said.
Michelle Anderson, who for 38 years has owned the Dairy Queen on East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue in Akron, said her late father, Richard Fulton, built the original Dairy Queen building on the Portage Trail site in the Falls. Anderson said her father and mother owned as many as eight Dairy Queens in the area at one time.
"He and my mom ran the [Portage Trail] Dairy Queen until I was 16 years old," Anderson recalled. "I remember the kids getting off from lunch from Cuyahoga Falls High School [and coming to the store]."
Anderson said she wishes Warther the best with the new facility. "I'm going to love seeing the new building."
'It's fun. It's ice cream'
Warther, a University of Akron graduate, recalled that he and his partners had no background running a restaurant business when they purchased Dairy Queen locations. They were helped by the previous owners, he said.
"We came in and learned the business," Warther said. "It's fun. We have a blast. It's ice cream."
Beacon Journal reporter Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: New Cuyahoga Falls Dairy Queen expected to open soon on Portage Trail