Its drive-through menu still offers fish sandwiches, Brownie Earthquakes and Pecan Mudslides, but nine months after a fire destroyed a popular Mesa Dairy Queen, nothing’s cooking in the fenced and boarded-up structure.
Other tenants in the complex near Main Street and Greenfield Road said drive-by traffic has slowed, affecting their business, and they hope another outlet opens on the lot soon.
But the property owner said he’s still trying to work out plans to build a retail outlet in place of the ice cream shop.
M. Jarecha, a family chiropractor renting space in the complex, said the charred building has significantly reduced the number of customers he was used to getting before the fire.
“The drive-by traffic has definitely slowed down, and that’s hurting us a lot,” Jarecha said.
Matia Karkos, a saleswoman at The Tuxedo Lady, said an empty, roofless structure overlooking the main road might lead potential customers to think the rest of the complex is closed, too.
“And that looks bad,” Karkos said. “You drive by and you see this burned-down building.”
The Village Square shopping center also houses a laundromat and a mortgage company office, among others. But, clearly, business isn’t thriving, with a vacant restaurant and bookstore also at the center.
“It looks quite dead, frankly,” said Rosa Jones, a first-time customer at the laundromat, who recently moved into the neighborhood. “They should open a Burger King or something here.”
Gabe Saia, chief financial officer of Saia Family Limited Partnership, said the company has owned the property since 1999. Saia said the process of getting the insurance settlement, trying to determine how best to proceed with reconstruction and getting new tenants has been time-consuming.
“I would love to see a tenant come forward before we reconstruct anything, but that hasn’t happened,” Saia said.
With the help of a local architect, he said he plans to redevelop the property, perhaps as a generic building with versatility.
Saia said he’s aware other tenants are concerned, but said it’s harder to attract new tenants to a complex not anchored by a grocery store.
“You are a successful owner only if you have successful tenants,” he said. “It’s not good long-term business sense for us either, so it’s in our best interest, too, to find a way to fill the block.”
That’s at least six months to a year away, with permits needed for construction.
From the city’s perspective, the code compliance and building safety divisions ensure a burned structure is properly secured, and the required building permits are issued when the owner requests them.
Mike Renshaw, Mesa’s director of code compliance, said there is no time frame to get that permit.
He said the department is primarily concerned with the safety of the neighborhood in such cases.
“Sometimes they can become a nuisance, with vagabonds or curious children trespassing inside,” Renshaw said.
Dave Harding, Mesa’s deputy director for building safety, said in the case of the Dairy Queen building, some portion of the affected roof structure was demolished and interior partitions and electrical and plumbing equipment have been cleared.
That’s of little concern to Angela Graham, who recently turned into the complex when she saw the DQ sign heading west on Main Street. When she saw the fenced building as she walked closer, she just sighed.
“Why don’t these guys at least remove the signs if these places aren’t around anymore,” she said.