Some of you may have noticed that there is a decrepit empty lot in the place of the Division St. Dairy Queen. While this comes as a sad shock to some Franklin students, it has been a long time coming for the charming drive-thru.
In a survey of 20 Franklin students 100 percent stated they have visited the Southeast Division Street Dairy Queen an average of about seven times a year. Many students reported that they visit the Dairy Queen because of the efficiency of the location and nostalgia of visiting the Dairy Queen in their younger years. 100 percent of students surveyed said they would revisit the Dairy Queen after the remodel. With results such as these it’s no wonder why the Division Street Dairy Queen is ranked the second best Dairy Queen in the greater Portland area by The Oregonian. So the question of Dairy Queen’s absence is not about a loss of customers but about the timeline for the reconstruction of the building.
Dairy Queen’s Pacific Northwest Executive Director Fred Barden was interviewed by Southeast Examiner journalist Jack Rubinger for the article “SE Division Dairy Queen Remodel” in 2019. According to the article, Barden said that the plans for a remodel have been in the works since 2017 and he was expecting the remodel to be done within the first quarter of 2020 (the first quarter ended March 31). Rubinger writes that City of Portland’s Community Outreach & Information Specialist Emily Volpert, says there are multiple permits filed for the Dairy Queen at 5605 SE Division St. in regards to demolition and commercial building. Volpert says, “The plans call for the demolition of an existing commercial building, and the construction of a two-story restaurant with the main floor to include a kitchen area, restrooms, interior and outdoor dining, a second floor to include dining, a break area, an office and new landscaping.” This would mean a Dairy Queen close to double the size of the previous structure while pertaining to the initial footprint. This plan of refurbishment will surely increase the frequency of Franklin visitors, and the unique structure of a two story Dairy Queen is sure to increase its curb appeal.
There are very few walk-up Dairy Queens left in the United States, giving the Division Street Dairy Queen a unique charm, which is one of the aspects of the building that Barden intends to keep during the remodel. There are no official answers to the question if the plan for a walk-up Dairy Queen is still in the works; due to the recent events of the pandemic the idea of a walk-up Dairy Queen could turn negative when considering social distancing guidelines. Dairy Queen’s official response to the coronavirus outbreak states that, “With the support of our franchise leadership, we strongly encourage all franchise owners to close in-restaurant and outdoor dining and focus on offering drive-thru, takeout and delivery services, where available. During this time, we realize that some restaurants may close.” With the closing of multiple fast food franchises it’s hard to know which franchises, if any, have the funding to support such an absence of customers. The SE Division Dairy Queen website states that it is only temporarily closed for the foreseeable future, similar to many other Dairy Queens in the Portland area.
The Dairy Queen franchise owners, in addition to a lack of response when requested to have an interview, have not given an official statement pertaining to the future construction of the Southeast Division Street Dairy Queen in recent weeks, but the aforementioned permits filed for the reconstruction of Dairy Queen have not been renewed or reapplied for. So we can only hope that we will see our Dairy Queen again.