“A den of lions,” business owner feels pushed out of Plaza Midwood with 1950s Dairy Queen store set to close

“A den of lions,” business owner feels pushed out of Plaza Midwood with 1950s Dairy Queen store set to close
Plaza Midwood Dairy Queen (Source: Anne Marie Hagerty)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A business in Plaza Midwood that’s been standing since 1950 is closing down.

The family that owns this Dairy Queen is not happy about it and didn’t want to leave the neighborhood.

A deal to buy this location that didn’t feel like a deal to the family who has run this business in Plaza Midwood for decades.

The Dairy Queen store opened in 1950.

“It’s been a family business ever since. We’ve never got rich. We tried to serve the general public and what they could afford in our neighborhoods," said Lacy Walters, the owner of the Dairy Queen on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood.

Lacy’s mission to keep things affordable was personal. He grew up with little money in eastern North Carolina.

'It was tough living honey. We had it tough. We were sharecroppers," said Walters. “It taken us until after World War II till we could come out and live comfortably.”

He came to Charlotte -- eyes set on a better life -- and landed on Dairy Queen.

“I wanted to make a good living for my family,” said Walters.

Now generations deep, grandson Logan Walters works in the business.

“Ever since I was a little kid coming up here, sitting out and eating ice cream," said Logan. “You get to see a lot of family come by, stop by, that’s the best part.”

But that's changing.

Aston Properties bought out the Walters and their Dairy Queen on Central Avenue is closing.

They said in a statement:

“Since acquiring this property, our primary focus has been to keep Dairy Queen in place. While we are disappointed with the outcome, we will now begin the process of identifying a replacement tenant that will be a long-term asset to the neighborhood.”

Walters said he wanted to come to an agreement and stay in his location.

“I have not said this to no reporter, but I’m going to say it out of my heart. But they did not pay me what I should have out of that building," said Walters. ”I felt like they had the upper hand because they were the people that owned the land."

Walters' had a front row seat to watching land values in Plaza Midwood change.

“There is a world of difference honey, in that neighborhood now and what is was when we went over there. It is unreal," said Walters.

Walters says his first rent payment for this spot was $150 per month.

But even through word of rising rent, he did not want to leave.

“It bothered me so when it first begin to happen I felt like I was being thrown into a den of lions, like how was I going to come out of this," said Walters.

Now at age 86, Lacy comes out to the store every morning to open up for customers.

“There’s definitely going to be a hole in Central Avenue because it’s been here so long,” said one customer.

“There will be a bit of a void here I think, not only physically but emotionally as well,” said one Plaza Midwood resident.

“People tell us we’ve been coming here 40 years, 30 years, and we are proud of that," said Walters.

“Right here is home to me, and I don’t plan to go nowhere else until they take me to the graveyard. I don’t plan to go no where," said Walters.

Walters will close this location on November 1st.

However, he says he is looking for a new spot to open a Dairy Queen still in the neighborhood.

The Walters family also owns one other store on Wilkinson Boulevard that Lacy is at each day and says is not going anywhere.

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