One of Payson's fast food icons is taking a break for the next three months. The town's McDonald's will close at 1 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 11 for demolition so that a new, larger restaurant can be built.
"We're going to do a scrape and rebuild," said owner Abe Martinez of Pinetop.
The restaurant on the southeast corner of Highway 87 and Highway 260 intersection will be torn down and a new building constructed on the site. The plan is to have the new McDonald's open for business by Dec. 12, Martinez said.
He is the third owner of that franchise, which was originally opened in the early 1980s by Craig and Vivian Cummings. The couple operated it for several years before selling to Dan Chavis. Martinez bought it from Chavis.
"I've remodeled and upgraded the place, redone the decor, added the Playland," Martinez said.
About three years ago he started considering another remodel.
"I looked at the town and saw how much it was growing. It's the gateway to the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains and our store is tired."
He said the equipment is showing wear and tear and maintenance and repairs are becoming expensive.
After looking at the costs involved in another update, Martinez said he talked with the McDonald's Corp. and together they decided to raze the building and start from the ground up.
"It's going to be one of the nicest looking businesses on the Beeline," Martinez said. "The community has supported us and this new building is a way to give back."
Martinez is giving every one of the 45 employees a bonus with their last paycheck and another bonus with their first paycheck when the restaurant reopens.
"Most of them are staying and are looking forward to a couple of months off," he said. "The general manager and managers are coming to Pinetop. I'm going to provide them with housing and jobs in my McDonald's in Show Low and Pinetop and at the Wal-Mart. My supervisor from Payson is going to be covering my stores in Winslow and Holbrook."
Shift manager Alfredo Vasquez said everyone is really excited about the new store.
"It's going to be wonderful with all the new equipment and new computers," Vasquez said.
He has not decided whether he will work in the White Mountains store.
"I have another job here, so I might stay, but I don't know yet," he said.
Martinez has 10 different McDonald's in northeastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Some of the equipment will go to his other operations, but much of it is being donated to Navajo County.
Payson's town engineer, LaRon Garrett, said the project will not have any impact on traffic.
Martinez bought adjoining property to expand the parking area and the new building will be oriented to the south.
"We're going to have a mountain atmosphere we think will enhance Payson," he said.
The play area will be smaller and inside the building, which will be more than 5,000 square feet in size. The present building is only 3,200 square feet. The current seating capacity is 45 inside and 20 outside on the patio. The new structure will have seating for 65 to 75 inside. Martinez has not decided if he will have a patio area with the new building.
In addition to his returning crew, he said he expects to add 20 to 25 more employees and hopes to make the restaurant a 24-hour operation, at least in the summer.
Quite a few residents will miss their McDonald's fix. Bobby Davis is worried about not having his sausage biscuit every morning.
"My name is Bobby Davis, and I'm a sausage biscuit addict -- I admit it," Davis said. "It's become a habit. I go frequently, almost every morning. I'll count the days until they reopen."
Kelley Donovan Fanizza was on the first crew when the Payson McDonald's opened and worked there from 1981 to 1983. She said she doesn't eat there much anymore, but her husband and children are all fans.
"My husband still has a Big Mac attack from time to time, so I'm sure he'll miss it," she said.
Recalling her days on the crew, Fanizza said she and her friend Diane Boitz, who was also on the crew, dressed in street clothes and passed out chicken nuggets and three sauces when that item was first introduced.
Toni Imel was one of a group who used to gather every morning at McDonald's for breakfast.
"Everyone there was just wonderful," Imel said. Since developing emphysema, Imel doesn't go out in the mornings any more and has given up coffee. But she said she'd love to go back and see it when the new building opens.