More than a year later, Bethel Avenue Dairy Queen set to reopen

A belt of tools sits by the front door Sept. 20, 2018 at the Dairy Queen on Bethel. The resturant plans to re-open Oct. 1. Rebecca Slezak,DN
A belt of tools sits by the front door Sept. 20, 2018 at the Dairy Queen on Bethel. The resturant plans to re-open Oct. 1. Rebecca Slezak,DN

When Suzanne Petro got the call, she was on her Labor Day weekend vacation, but she immediately turned around and came back to Muncie. The cause of the reversal? One of the three Muncie Dairy Queens she oversees was engulfed in flames.

As DQ of Muncie district manager, Petro has worked with the company for nearly two decades. When she first heard the news, she said the biggest challenge was the uncertainty of it all.

“That was never a doubt in our mind — that we were going to reopen this location. It was just getting with the insurance and getting everything mapped out and getting everybody together. It was slow moving at first just with the insurance and stuff,” Petro said.

Rusty Booher, former assistant manager at the Bethel Avenue store, was coming into work the day of the fire. He said he noticed the building was smoky but figured it might’ve been the mulch outside — it wasn’t uncommon for a fire to catch in the mulch because of discarded cigarettes.

The Muncie Fire Department was dispatched to the Dairy Queen around 4 p.m. on Monday. No one was injured during the fire. Andrew Smith, DN photo

“I checked it and it was smoldering. So, I went and got some water,” Booher said. “By time I came back out, the side of the building was on fire. So, I ran inside, got a fire extinguisher, came back out, by time I came back out, the whole side of the building was just engulfed.”

Booher said the store had around 10-15 customers that day, with a couple of cars in the drive-thru. He said he was able to ensure everyone was out of the building while the general manager called the fire department.

Booher, who has worked at Dairy Queen for 11 years, said in the moment he was focused on everyone’s safety, but later the reality set in — his job was on fire.

However, he, along with other DQ employees, were relocated to other area locations while construction was being done to the Bethel DQ.

“I keep coming back. It’s a family...it’s not like other businesses where it’s going to work, leave,” he said. “You want to come in, we have fun. We are a very tight-knit crew. It’s a family, we’re all just family.”

Since the fire, Petro said people ask her daily about the store reopening. Originally, Petro said the store was planned to reopen sometime in the summer, but construction pushed the reopening back a couple of months. Now, after the construction, 95 percent of the equipment in Petro’s favorite location is new, and the only memory of the former building is the windows.

“It’s kind of like on all sides of town, so we have our South Madison [Street] location, our McGalliard [Avenue] location is more by the mall and this is honestly our Ball State location. It’s where we get all the Ball State kids,” she said. “It’s honestly my favorite location just because of the Ball State kids.”

When the Bethel Avenue location closed, Petro said other stores like the DQ on McGalliard Avenue became “slammed” with business. Now that it’s reopening, she’s anticipating a booming business. 

“We know it’s going to be busy. Any time you open something new or anything like that, it’s busy, and I wanted to be well staffed because I figured our fans had waited a year for us to open, so we want to actually deliver it to them when we do open and give them a good experience,” Petro said.

The Bethel Avenue location is set to reopen Oct. 1, with a larger lobby and a doubled staff. At this time, Petro said she’s unsure if there will be any reopening specials.

Contact Mary Freda with comments at mafreda@bsu.edu or on Twitter @Mary_Freda1. 

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