LANSING | When the Dari-Ville ice cream stand that has been located for 50 years at 179th Street and Burnham Avenue closes on Sunday, it won’t be for just the summer. It will be for good.
Joe Melko, who has operated the stand at 17859 Burnham Ave. for the past 14 years, says the cost of a small business operating in Illinois so close to the Indiana border has just become too high for him to continue.
Melko said Tuesday that this will be the final week of business for the summer 2013 season.
When Dari-Ville reopens in the spring, it will be located next to a Subway Sandwiches franchise at 917 Sheffield St., in Dyer, which Melko owns.
“It will continue to be an outdoor stand with no seating, but if people want to buy an ice cream cone and come into the Subway to sit down and order a sandwich, they will be welcome,” he said.
Melko said he wishes he could continue to operate in Lansing, saying he appreciates the tradition and customers who make the trip to the Burnham Avenue location even if they no longer live in the area.
“We’ve had people come here from Indianapolis and Aurora, saying they wanted to get one last cone and have their pictures taken here,” Melko said. “It’s hard to come by customers who are that loyal to a business.”
Melko said the problem with remaining in Lansing is his location, three blocks north of Ridge Road, which he owns, and is currently looking for a buyer.
If he were on Ridge Road, Melko said there would be the chance that Lansing municipal government could offer him tax incentives to make it financially viable for him to remain open, or offer other financial help to upgrade the stand.
His stand is considered too far from Ridge Road to fall within the Tax Increment Finance district the village uses to bolster the downtown business district.
“Ridge Road is 182nd Street, while I’m 179th Street,” Melko said. “It’s only three blocks, but it’s far enough.”
Melko said he met with Village President Norm Abbott and other municipal officials back in December, but came to the conclusion that Lansing government could not do enough to make it viable for him to stay.
Abbott said he did meet with Melko, whom he has known personally for several years. But he said Melko wanted his ice cream stand included in proposals that would have brought a CVS pharmacy to the site just north of the stand that was occupied by a Dollar Store. "He was interested in a larger project," Abbott said. "We weren't able to offer him anything."
Nonetheless, Abbott said he appreciates the significance of losing the long-time ice cream stand. "We can't always be of help," Abbott said. "We wish him the best of luck at his new location."
Lansing Planning and Development Director Kristi DeLaurentiis, whose office usually oversees such talks with local businesses, said she had not met with Melko.
Dari-Ville is not the only business on Burnham Avenue to leave in recent years. A bakery and music store that used to be located just a block north of the ice cream stand also have closed.
“I know there are limits to what (Lansing officials) can do, but can’t they talk to Cook County officials to try to get them to lower some of these taxes?” Melko said. “I just can’t afford to stay in Lansing anymore.”