SOUTH PORTLAND — A Cottage Road landmark ravaged by fire two months ago seems headed for the wrecking ball.
Whether Red’s Dairy Freeze will be rebuilt remains unknown.
Code Enforcement Officer Patricia Doucette said the owner of Red’s has obtained a city permit to demolish the popular, soft-serve ice cream shop that was scorched by an early morning electrical fire on May 16.
Doucette said owner Chris Bolling indicated he would raze all but two ground layers of concrete and rebuild on the existing foundation. The permit, issued last week, is good for six months, she said.
Joel Fitzpatrick, the project contractor, said his crews are awaiting word on when to begin demolition.
“We’re close to getting a day,” Fitzpatrick said on Friday, July 16.
As of Wednesday, no activity had occurred. Bolling did not return several phone calls in the past week.
Bolling now operates the business that was started by his father, Leonard “Red” Bolling, in 1952. It was originally operated as a Tastee Freeze franchise, until the name was changed in 1965.
At that time, sundaes cost as little as 15 cents, ice cream sandwiches went for 10 cents and soft-serve cones ranged from 5 cents to 15 cents.
The company’s website says neighbors originally opposed the business, which has now become something of legend in Maine.
But on May 16, an electrical malfunction in the bathroom started a fire that all but gutted the business. The company website says temperatures reached 1,700 degrees, melting anything made of plastic.
While it only took firefighters 20 minutes to control the blaze, the interior was destroyed. Firefighters said the cinder-block construction turned the building into an oven.
This week there was no activity on the property, only a large storage container, a full Dumpster and a piece of caution tape flapping in the breeze. The interior of the building appeared stripped and cleaned out.
Bolling, who started working at Red’s at the age of 3, previously said he originally hoped to reopen the business this summer, but that now seems unlikely.
Vinny Olsen, owner of the Cottage Road Service Center across the street from Red’s, said Bolling has allowed him to park vehicles at the ice cream shop while reconstruction plans are finalized.
Olsen said he recently spoke with Bolling about the plans to rebuild.
“I went over there the other day and he was pretty quiet about it,” Olsen said. “He said, ‘when I need you to move (the cars), I will let you know.'”
Meanwhile, the company’s website repeats a promise scrawled in bright red paint on boards covering the front windows of Red’s Dairy Freeze: “We’ll be back.”
“How long that will take, and when we will reopen is still undetermined, but we will be back,” the site says. “Leonard ‘Red’ Bolling would have it no other way.”
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Red’s Dairy Freeze has been closed since a May 16 fire tore through the interior, but left the exterior relatively untouched. The owner has obtained permits to demolish the Cottage Road landmark, which was established in 1952.
Scorch marks and caution tape can still be seen at the rear entrance of Red’s Dairy Freeze in South Portland.
A look through the service window at Red’s Dairy Freeze in South Portland.