Dairy Queen razed with plans to rebuild

The demolished remains of the Canton Dairy Queen, 51 Gouverneur St., are sprayed with water, to prevent dust that might contain asbestos from leaving the property, before being loaded into a truck for removal Wednesday. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — The village’s Dairy Queen has been demolished this week, and the process continues for the restaurant’s rebuild on the same site, 51 Gouverneur St.

Sitting charred and vacant for more than a year following the 2018 arson fire that burned out the building and left several people unemployed, Dairy Queen co-owners Gail Crabtree and John Putman are looking ahead to restore the Canton fast-food staple.

“There’s so many factors outside of our control,” Ms. Crabtree said, describing the uncertain timeline of the multi-step revitalization process. “But it’s going to be completely new.”

A notice of the building’s pending demolition was filed with the state at the beginning of December, and Atlantic Testing Laboratories began environmental monitoring procedures for the demolition on Monday. The demolition, conducted by Jeda Environmental Services, Massena, was primarily done on Tuesday and finished up Wednesday with debris cleanup. Atlantic Testing will continue to facilitate environmental monitoring through the week, Ms. Crabtree said.

Once demolition cleanup is complete, the architectural designs will be workshopped until they are finalized and approved by International Dairy Queen, Minneapolis, the parent company of American Dairy Queen Corporation. Professional engineer Hassan A. Fayad, Massena, is leading that engineering and architectural work. With corporate approval and a building permit from the village, construction bids can then be reviewed.

With support over the last year from the Canton Economic Development Office, the office’s director Leigh Rodriguez, the village board and Mayor Michael E. Dalton, Ms. Crabtree said the community has played an important role in bringing Dairy Queen back.

In November 2018, the village board reviewed a grant application that requested funds of no more than $270,000 to assist with equipment purchases for a revitalized Gouverneur Street Dairy Queen.

With the village as the applicant, the request was submitted to the Community Development Block Grant Program on behalf of the Dairy Queen.

By May 2019, the village board agreed to apply for a $195,000 federal grant through the CDBG Economic Development Program. The village was awarded funds in June, and the disbursements will be made once rebuilding begins, and will exclusively cover the cost of purchasing equipment for the restaurant, Ms. Crabtree said.

With a new design and new equipment, the Dairy Queen will also offer more employment opportunities than it had during its former life.

With around 20 employees working at the restaurant prior to its closure, Ms. Crabtree said the new Dairy Queen will offer about 40 jobs, a mix of full- and part-time positions.

“All of our employees were like a family to us,” she said. “Many had to take other jobs in the meantime, but they’re excited to come back to us.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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