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Improved French's Stand set to reopen this summer

Construction forced closure of business for first time in more than 100 years; 'It's encouraging that others care about it as much as we do'
French's Stand was removed from its original foundation this week. It will be moved back before reopening this summer.

After being closed for more than a year due to construction on Centennial Drive, French’s Stand is expected to reopen this summer.

This week, French's Stand was moved slightly forward from its original spot at Couchiching Beach Park. Melissa Gowanlock, manager of communications for the City of Orillia, says the iconic hot dog stand isn't going anywhere.

"The business owners of French's Stand have decided to make structural improvements to their facility," she said in an email to OrilliaMatters.

"In preparation of the structural improvements, they have had their contractor raise the building in order to create a new foundation that will not only facilitate the other planned building improvements but will match up to the planned elevation of the surrounding public seating area that is included in the city's Centennial Park boat launch parking lot reconstruction project."

She says that project is scheduled to be complete by June 29.

"It is our understanding that French's Stand plans to reopen soon thereafter," she said.

Through the Centennial Drive area reconstruction project, Centennial Drive has been moved from in front of French's Stand to immediately behind it. Gowanlock says the road improves the safety of park users and French's Stand customers as they no longer need to cross a road to get to or from French's Stand.

"Together with the planned Centennial Park boat launch parking lot reconstruction project, visitors to the waterfront parks and French's Stand will have new, safer, and more convenient active transportation access through the construction of the new sidewalk, and connected paved, multi-use trails," she said.

Tyson French, whose family owns the stand, says the goal is to get French's "back into action" as soon as possible. Before last summer, the French family had served food and beverages out of the stand for 103 consecutive years.

"We've had people looking us up on the internet and phoning us to ask when it's going to be open," he said. "I think the difficult part for a lot of us was the breaking of the streak."

French's great-grandfather, George, started the business in 1920 as part of an agreement with CP Rail.

"COVID didn't stop us; neither did World War 2," he said, noting generations of families have enjoyed the tradition of visiting the stand.

The French family has contracted Johnston House Raising and Moving, of Pefferlaw, to help establish a new foundation that will sit 16 inches higher than the original.

"They are a great crew," French said. "They are like magicians, having that thing float in the air like that and not cracking a paint seam."

Despite being closed for more than a year and having to build a new foundation, the French family has never considered moving on from the stand.

"My family has been in Orillia for seven or eight generations," French said. "That's a whole lot of history that we aren't willing to throw away."

As important as the stand is to the French family, it's just as important to the community, French says, adding his family is asked about the stand almost daily.

"It's encouraging that others care about it as much as we do," he said. "It means a lot."


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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