Dot's of Dover being remade to order
Town rallies to raise neighborhood diner from the ashes
DOVER — Betsey Reagan, owner of Dot's of Dover, has long been known for her diner's philanthropy. She's supported the adult day service center The Gathering Place in West Dover and the Twice Blessed thrift store, where proceeds help individuals and families in crisis.
But when her beloved diner burned to the ground in the early hours of a stormy January morning, it was Reagan's customers and neighbors' turn to lend a helping hand.
Several fundraisers, including raffles and crowdfunding via GoFundMe.com, were organized to support the rebuilding.
"Similar to many of our restaurants, it's an institution in the valley," said Eric Durocher, executive director of the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce. "I know it's an extremely popular breakfast spot for locals and people visiting us."
The decision to rebuild the diner, where countless memories have been made over made-to-order omelets and weekly blue plate specials, was immediate. Construction began around the end of May. The structure is now up and crews are adding siding to the exterior.
"Everybody was able to jump right in," said Jim Lynch, general contractor for the project.
Reagan said an insurance company did not determine the cause of the fire, which firefighters do not consider suspicious.
"Hopefully, everything will work out and we'll have a better Dot's," Reagan said just hours after the fire. "A newer version of the old place."
Lynch, who is in a relationship with Reagan, had an office in the building before it burned down. The night of the fire, he had been able to save a hard drive from a computer and a fiber-glass bear that had been designed in memory of veterans as part of a chamber of commerce fundraiser. Nothing was salvaged from a second hand store that was also housed in the building.
The latest plan does not include retail space. But the building is being constructed in "the same exact footprint," Lynch said.
The goal is to start serving food at some point in November. The diner is especially known for its breakfasts, including specialized omelets and the McDot, an egg sandwich. Lunches include fish and chips, chicken, meatloaf and weekly specials.
"There's going to be a few changes here and there, but it will be the same old diner," Reagan said. "Homemade hash and all that."
Her staff is experimenting with different meals.
"And we're going to have a liquor/coffee bar with espresso machines and all that," Reagan said.
For her, the project is "beautiful and scary, too."
"You knew what the old one was and what to expect," she said. "I'm hoping I'm doing it right."
The main level will be 4,012 square feet. Attic space upstairs will be used for storage, mechanical equipment and an office for restaurant manager Steve Garcia. Reagan will have her own office on the main level.
The lunch counter, Lynch said, will be "the same but different." It will now include a bar on the side closer to Route 100 with different beer taps.
The layout has been slightly changed to improve workflow. Lynch said a covered deck will allow for the restaurant to offer "three-season dining" outdoors rather than just when the sun is out.
Staff will have the ability to separate three dining rooms for groups or private parties.
The restaurant will have radiant heat in the floor, air conditioning, heating and LED lights. Lynch said he is "working real close" with Efficiency Vermont to ensure the building is energy efficient.
There will now be sprinklers throughout the space. This had not been required when the building was first constructed.
The foundation was raised 8 inches. Previously, soil had been touching the edge of the building.
"It's not a good thing," Lynch said.
Clapboard siding will be going up. Lynch said the wood product comes prefinished so exterior painting will not be required.
Local or Vermont contractors were hired whenever possible.
"I insisted on that," Reagan said. "You can't be a business like I am and have a big outfit come in who's not a local guy."
She said Lynch & Son, Southworth Electrical, Reed Construction and Lane Plumbing "have all been wonderful to me."
Durocher said his group is constantly being asked when the diner will reopen.
"There's definitely excitement for that to happen because people make it part of their routine to be there, to go there for breakfast or for lunch," he said. "So people are definitely excited about it opening back up."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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