Facebook fans rally around endangered DQ

Nearly 900 Facebook members have rallied to show their support of a local Dairy Queen.

The small Dairy Queen, located at 1720 Lexington Ave., near the intersection of Lexington and Larpenteur avenues in Roseville, was recently designated one of the Top 10 Most Endangered Historic Places by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

According to a Preservation Alliance press release, the state's oldest DQ faces an uncertain future. The Alliance and a group of DQ fans say the owner wants to demolish the building and replace it with a newest DQ "Grill and Chill" restaurant.

Most of the members on Facebook's "Save Minnesota's #1 DQ" want their DQ to stay exactly as it is.

'Tight quarters'
Among those in favor of keeping the DQ in its current state is Kris Thomsen, who lived in St. Paul on North Dale Street as a kid and worked at the Dairy Queen in the summers, beginning in 1988 when she was 15 until 1996, when she was 7 months pregnant.

"It's pretty tight quarters in the front working area," she recalled. "So, when things really got hopping, it was tough to 'suck in' the belly."

Thomsen has vivid memories of her years at DQ. Employees were allowed "All the DQ you could eat during break," she noted. "We'd make some pretty weird things."

To this day, she enjoys Heath bar blizzards with bananas -- and keeps a warm spot in her heart for that DQ.

"I always hoped I could buy the DQ there," she said.

The Preservation Alliance would also like to save the DQ. Erin Hanafin Berg, a field representative with the Preservation Alliance, said that the DQ, built in the early 1950s, was built about a decade after the first DQ appeared in Joliet, Ill in 1940. There were only a few hundred Dairy Queens throughout the United States when the Lexington store was built.

"This is something special, and it'd be a shame to see it go," Hanafin Berg noted.

No word from owner
The Preservation Society has reached out to Jack DeCrans, who owns the Dairy Queen franchise that leases the Larpenteur DQ, in the hopes they can offer him assistance in finding tax credits and/or grants that would help offset maintenance costs and energy upgrades for the aging building. If DeCrans still wants to build a "Grill and Chill," Hanafin Berg hopes he'll consider expanding next to the existing building.

"It doesn't necessarily need to be an all-or-nothing proposition," Hanafin Berg noted.

However, Hanafin Berg said the leasee "hasn't been terribly receptive to speaking with us."

Emails to DeCrans from the Roseville Review were not returned by press time.

While the leasee remains without comment, the Facebook group continues to speak out.

"I know (the DQ) is in desperate need of repair, but it's well worth it," said Thomsen. "Too often things are tossed or demolished just because no one wants to take the time to fix them. What if that was the case with the Glensheen Mansion, the James J. Hill House, the Cathedral? Why should this DQ, with so much history for the state, be any different?"

Want to join the effort? The Preservation Alliance encourages people to do the following:

• Form a group to advocate for preservation. (Refer to the Alliance's Community Action Guide.) www.mnpreservation.org/pdf/Community_Action_Guide.pdf

• Become familiar with the value and importance of mid-century and roadside architecture by visiting the websites of the Society for Commercial Archeology www.sca-roadside.org and the Modernism + Recent Past initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. www.preservationnation.org/issues/modernism-recent-past/

• Work to have the building listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

• Tell the building owner and franchise holder that you honor and appreciate this historic Dairy Queen - and that you want to see it preserved.

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