COOLIDGE — Summer is in full swing. And what better way is there to celebrate (and, in some cases, retreat from) the heat than ice cream?
Coolidge has a place that specializes in whipping up a variety of cold treats. And, even better, the store is officially open for business.
Last Thursday marked the first day the Coolidge location of Dairy Queen opened its doors to the public. The store began taking orders and doling out ice cream and a few other treats to eager customers in the late afternoon.
Located at 987 N. Arizona Blvd., the newly opened DQ is situated in what was formerly the Lucky Liquor Star. But residents driving past the store may not recognize the building.
Since January, Pete Simms and his business partner, Bill Sladek, have been working to renovate the former liquor store and transform it into a prime location for DQ.
The endeavor, however, proved to be a greater challenge than the pair or their preferred contractor, Steve Bjornstad, initially thought.
At the beginning of the year, the group had hoped to be open by late spring. But a number of unexpected projects throughout the renovation forced them to push back the opening date.
“It’s been a crazy process,” Simms said. “When you take an old building like this, there are always surprises along the way.”
Surprises like having to update the supply of electricity to the structure from single-phase power to three-phase power and reworking the facility’s aging plumbing.
The group also had the task of implementing some of the design elements for the interior and exterior of the building mandated by American Dairy Queen Corp. — elements like the store’s “eyebrow” above the door, which features two rows of blue LED lights.
“We had to figure out how to make that look work on this building,” Simms said. “The good news was that it's just a rectangular building and we took it down to just the four walls, so we sort of started with a clean slate.”
The focus, however, for the DQ franchise operators has always been to make the newest location as nice as possible for customers, he said.
Other updates to the building include small changes to the flow of the drive-thru and adding a parking lot behind the store.
Along with the Coolidge store, Simms and Sladek own a number of other DQ franchises, including one in San Tan Valley at Gantzel and Combs roads.
At approximately 1,500 square feet, the Coolidge DQ location is the smallest franchise Simms and Sladek have ever opened. Making the most of the limited space took a little creativity, Simms said.
But although the new store is officially open for business, there’s still some work that’s left to be done on the facility, including taking down the old Lucky Liquor Star sign and putting up the DQ logo.
The franchise operators also purchased the building on the adjacent lot, which is undergoing renovations. Once that is completed, Simms said that the pair hopes to rent it out to a business that will ideally complement the DQ store.
Known as an Orange Julius Treat Store, the Coolidge DQ will primarily sell ice cream, Orange Julius and other treats. Since the store is not equipped with a grill or a fryer, it will not serve food items like burgers, fries or chicken strips.
“We have limited food,” Simms said. “We have hot dogs, chili dogs, a few sandwiches and we have really good pretzel sticks.”
Simms also anticipates that the store will begin selling ice cream cakes sometime in the near feature as well as take-home treats such as Dilly Bars and Buster Bars.
Despite being part of a national chain, Simms hopes the store will integrate with the community. The mission began when the store hired students from local high schools who began their training at the San Tan Valley location.
Over time, the DQ location will also likely contribute to the community by sponsoring sports at the high school, Little League activities or similar events, Simms noted.
“We’ve had such a nice experience in Coolidge so far,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to being a part of this community.”