For over half a century, the walk up window-style Dairy Queen at 1431 Central Ave. has been serving up dipped cones to the Charlotte community. On Friday, that iconic location announced that it would close at the end of October.
“It’s disheartening,” said Sherman Walters, whose family has owned the Dairy Queen and the one on Wilkinson Boulevard since the ’70s.
The Wilkinson Boulevard store opened in the early ’50s, and a few years later, the Plaza Midwood location followed, Walters said.
“If you notice the Eskimo girl on the Wilkinson Boulevard location, you’ll see that she’s not on the Central Avenue store. In those few short years between the locations opening, there was a design change,” Walters explained.
A look at the history
Lacy Walters, Walters’ father, moved to Charlotte with his wife in the mid ’50s. He worked as a milkman for Biltmore Dairy for years before coming to run the company. Through that position, he built a relationship with the Dairy Queen owners in Charlotte.
He acquired his first location in the ’60s, which was on Graham Street. The Wilkinson Blvd. location was next, around 1973.
In 1977, the Central Avenue owners notified Lacy Walters that they were looking to sell the store. As a way to persuade his daughter to move to Charlotte from Kansas City, he offered her the location. She moved to Charlotte to run the store but passed away soon after.
In 1988, the location was passed to Stephen Walters, who is Walters’ brother.
“We’ve survived three generations of property owners in our time running the store,” Walters said.
The decision to close
For years, the Walters family has sought to own the Central Avenue Dairy Queen’s building, but it never worked out.
An offer was made about three years ago for the family to take over, but it was just too much for the family to pay.
“The writing was on the wall,” Walters said.
Aston Properties, the current property owners, came to the Walters family in hopes of coming to an agreement. Walters said the company expressed its desire for the Dairy Queen to remain on the property, despite paying millions of dollars for it.
“We thought they would turn it into an investment property, but they explained that it was just too cool of a property to let go,” Walters told CharlotteFive.
“Although the two parties could not agree on terms for a renewal, Dairy Queen expects to announce a new location in the near future, and we wish them well. We plan to make needed improvements to the building and look forward to identifying a new tenant for this irreplaceable location in Plaza Midwood,” Aston Properties said through its public relations representative, Will Boye of Yellow Duck Marketing.
Boye said Aston Properties does not plan to tear the building down, disputing such reports circulating on social media.
Walters said, “The level of investment to upgrade the building versus the time that Aston was willing to commit just didn’t make sense.”
The properties in the Plaza Midwood area are fluid, and it’s hard for property owners to commit to long term leases at times. But, even a few months ago, no one would have thought that the Dairy Queen would actually be closing.
Just 2-3 weeks ago, the parties officially agreed to part ways, Walters said. The economics of it all didn’t add up, so the agreement was that the Walters family would vacate the property by the end of October.
What’s coming next
Walters explained that his family is very close to reaching a deal for another Dairy Queen location in the neighborhood that should be slated to open by spring.
“The next location won’t have the same character. There’s just no way to duplicate it,” he said.
Charlotte residents have shown for decades that the Plaza Midwood location is a landmark for the area. Even with the neighborhood changing over the years, the customers have remained.
“This was actually where I met my wife. I was working in the store, and she lived just down the road. She would come by often, and we connected,” Walters said.
Other businesses in the area are sad to see such an iconic neighbor leave, as well.
“I’m really good friends with Andy Kastanas, who owns the Diamond and Soul Gastrolounge nearby. He called me and just kept asking “what can we do?” But I told him it was a done deal,” Walters said.