Business

New building underway at site of Duchess Cleaners fire

Venue ready to lease by spring, developer says

John Khairallah, who is rebuilding on the site of the former Duchess Cleaners on Center Point Road NE, started Zio Johno’s when he was 21 years old. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
John Khairallah, who is rebuilding on the site of the former Duchess Cleaners on Center Point Road NE, started Zio Johno’s when he was 21 years old. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Construction has begun on a new building rising from the ashes of a fire that destroyed a northeast Cedar Rapids business and ended a more than five-decade dry cleaning operation.

Cedar Rapids businessman and entrepreneur John Khairallah is buying the former Duchess Cleaners building at 3905 Center Point Rd. NE. The structure was destroyed by an arson-related fire on Aug. 20.

“I and my son-in-law will be taking possession in a week or two,” Khairallah said Friday. “We don’t have a tenant. We haven’t advertised it, but we’re hoping that we will have somebody soon.”

Khairallah said the 3,000-square-foot building, which will include an undamaged rear portion of the original structure, should be ready to lease in the spring.

“It will have a lot of windows with brick and stone on the outside,” he said. “We are making the building so that it could either be a restaurant, clothing shop or dance studio — whatever a tenant would like.”

Khairallah, who started the Zio Johno’s restaurant chain in 1984, owns Via Sofia’s Italian Kitchen restaurants at 1125 First Ave. SE and 5411 Center Point Rd. NE.

Charges of second-degree arson and third-degree burglary were filed against Grant M. Ajango, 22, in connection with the Duchess Cleaners fire. His trial is scheduled to start Feb. 11.

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On Oct. 9, Duchess Cleaners announced on its Facebook page that it was closing its other location at 588 Boyson Rd NE and ceasing operation after more than 50 years in business.

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