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Dairy Queen serves up a fresh look

Restaurant’s design is a Wisconsin first

By Scott Bellile

Ice cream enthusiasts might have noticed the local Dairy Queen suddenly doesn’t look the same.

That is because the New London restaurant, 600 W. North Water St., remodeled its exterior to align with International Dairy Queen’s latest design recommendations for franchisees.

“It’s not going to be the standard Dairy Queen iconic colors,” said Terri Fote, co-owner of the New London location with husband Dean. “It’ll be blue, grey. … It’s going to be very, very different, but it’ll be one of the first remodels of this type in I would say the state of Wisconsin. There aren’t [any local franchises thus far] that are doing these. This is a brand new program that just came out Jan. 1.”

The Fotes also own DQs in Clintonville, De Pere, Green Bay, Ashwaubenon and Howard. Of their locations, they chose New London to remodel because the building, dating back to the 1960s, was due for a makeover.

Eventually the day will come for Fote and her husband to sell New London’s franchise, she said, so an up-to-date facility will increase the likelihood of a successful sale.

Fred J Piette Company Inc. out of Appleton performed the renovation, which includes new siding, signage, LED lighting, paint and a redesigned roof.

The original red mansard (curved) roof that was there since the beginning demanded plenty of paint jobs over the years, Fote said. Sunlight would fade it to pink. So the roof was replaced with a straight, dark blue design.

The improvements are all to the exterior. Nothing was built on to the structure because expansion is tough being next to the Wolf River. Limited space is why the DQ remains a “window walk-up” unit rather than the company’s widespread “Grill & Chill” unit. The latter is known for offering indoor seating, burgers and fried foods.

“New London’s kind of challenged where it’s in a flood zone and you can’t really add on and you can’t really expand,” Fote said. “So we’re just kind of stuck being what we are, and we just want to be the best that we can in that spot.”

The New London franchise’s unique nature and appeal was another reason its building deserved an update, Fote said.

While most of Wisconsin’s DQs contain indoor dining space today, New London’s “window walk-up” DQ remains a location where customers must order from the sidewalk.

Visitors praise the riverside dining experience during the summer and continue to form long lines in the frigid winter.

New London’s compact, 828-square foot facility made it a quicker renovation as well compared to if the Fotes would have selected one of their other franchises.

New London’s last DQ renovation occurred in 2009 when the Fotes began offering the Orange Julius smoothie line. They changed their signage and color scheme to reflect that. With Orange Julius being more commonplace in DQs today than it was eight years ago, the newly upgraded signage draws less attention to it.

Fote noted that the new sign outside identifies New London’s franchise as a Grill & Chill because the wrong sign was shipped. New London is not expanding its menu to Grill & Chill options and the correct sign will be installed shortly.

The city of New London’s downtown facade improvement grant helped support the project. Fote said she witnessed nearby businesses taking advantage of it and wanted to play her part in beautifying North Water Street. The city awarded DQ the maximum $2,000.

“It is great to see all the improvements being made to our business community,” City Administrator Kent Hager said. “Implementation of the grant program not only benefits the structural integrity of the buildings, but improves the appearance and attractiveness of our community.”

The Fotes purchased the New London franchise in 1999. Today it employs 13 workers, Fote said.

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