King's Sandwich Shop -- a long-time DAP-area institution downtown, described succinctly by one Endangered Durham commenter who simply said, "This is Durham for me," has a new lease on life.
The hamburger and hot dog stand closed early in 2007, prompting a wave of speculation over its future in light of ongoing land acquisition and speculation in the DAP district near Central Park downtown.
But it was purchased by T.J. and Maggie McDermott, a municipal administrator and social worker (respectively) who moved to Durham a few years back -- encouraged by T.J.'s childhood friend and local designer Rob Emerson, himself a "sweat equity" partner in the project.
The plan is simple: bring King's back as a neighborhood corner hot dog and hamburger stand. There'll be a few new twists (veggie dog, anyone?) aligned to today's Durham, of course.
But one thing isn't changing: the name itself, for which the new owners got permission to continue using when they saw the passion of the new owners for the space and its history.
The team has made major improvements to the roof, which was in bad shape and has needed fresh joists and covers.
But the interior layout will remain the same; the team is preserving the metallic pattern backsplash that ran behind the grill, for instance.
Even the little rear bathrooms are staying put where they are.
It's a lot of labor for the crew, but clearly, it's a labor of love.
The McDermotts closed on the building in early April, according to Register of Deeds records, purchasing the building from the High family.
The original shop opened shortly after World War II and is a distinct part of Durham lore, remembered in a painting up on the wall at Watts Grocery and in the memory of many.
The Geer Street corridor of the DAP district has seen quite a bit of rehab of late -- from the signature repairs and improvements to the Durham Athletic Park ballpark itself, to Bob Chapman's restoration of an old printing plant (now CrossFit and offices) and an old gas station (home to Patanjali's Place yoga studio) across the street, to the advent soon of Fullsteam Brewery just to the east on Rigsbee near Geer.
And now, you can add King's back to the list. Should be a perfect place to head to after a game at the new old DAP, or after a pint at Fullsteam.
The timetable for opening is still up in the air; the nature of the repairs required means the shop probably won't open in time for the blues and beer festivals at the DAP over the next month or so, but don't be surprised if the new owners try some alfresco cooking on a grill, perhaps, to help show the 'hood they're coming back.
(Thanks to an alert BCR reader for noticing this and sending in the tip!)