SOUTH PORTLAND – Robin Goodwin stood at the end of the line that snaked Friday from the window of Red’s Dairy Freeze, ready to wait as long as it would take to get her fix.

“Last year was horrible,” said Goodwin, who has been enjoying treats from the soft-serve ice cream stand for 45 years.

Red’s reopened Friday, nearly 10 months after an electrical fire heavily damaged the building on Cottage Road. The building had to be demolished, and Red’s legions of fans had to go without.

The much-anticipated reopening was announced Thursday night.

Before Red’s opened at noon Friday, several dozen people gathered around the new, shinier version of the original red-and-white cinder-block landmark at the foot of Meetinghouse Hill. Passing drivers honked their horns.

The guests of honor were firefighters who responded to the fire before dawn on May 16.

First in line at the walk-up window was South Portland firefighter Chris Swenson. On the morning of the fire, he and firefighter Josh Perry broke in the back door of Red’s and entered the hot, dark and smoky space.

On Friday, Swenson ordered a triple-chocolate Boston, one of Red’s signature shakes topped with ice cream and sauce.

“I love it!” cried Kathlean Peters from behind the counter. “Step aside. Let’s get the next guy up.”

The Boston was delivered quickly and was followed by a small Oreo, a small peanut-butter cup and a large Butterfinger nor’easter.

The firefighters signed two T-shirts that Red’s had made for the reopening. Each shirt sports a firefighter’s badge with a soft-serve cone in the center. On the back is a photo of the fire with “I (barely) survived the summer without Red’s.”

The plan is to put one shirt in the shop and auction the other to benefit a charity of the firefighters’ choosing.

After the firefighters were served, fans wearing scarves, hats and other winter gear in the below-freezing temperatures got in line for their first taste of Red’s this season. They came away with jimmie-coated ice cream, banana splits, hot fudge sundaes and big smiles.

Red’s usually opens in March without much fanfare. This season’s opening warranted special treatment, said Laura Bolling, the owners’ daughter.

She said she didn’t know just how beloved Red’s was until she saw the crowd that gathered to bid the original building goodbye when it was demolished in August. Red’s has more than 2,700 Facebook fans.

The business got its start in 1952, when Leonard “Red” Bolling and his wife, Hazel, opened it as Tastee Freeze. It was renamed Red’s Dairy Freeze in 1965, and is now owned by the couple’s son, Chris, and his wife, Allison.

Employees from the past five decades will work during this opening weekend.

On Friday, Isaac Dunn and some of his friends took advantage of a half-day at St. Brigid School in Portland. Dunn, a seventh-grader, wouldn’t normally eat ice cream in such cold weather, but this was a special occasion.

Last summer, he had to get by with carton ice cream from the supermarket. “It was good, but it’s just not the same,” he said. “I’m doing the Boston.”

Raymond Taylor figured he was the only parent who signed out a Cape Elizabeth Middle School student for Red’s reopening. Taylor had told his son, 11-year-old Patrick, that he was going to the allergist.

But Taylor couldn’t keep the secret for long.

“I really couldn’t contain myself,” he said. “As we were walking down the hall, I said, ‘You’re not going to the allergist. You’re going to Red’s!’“

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]

 


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