New life for old icon: Microbrewery possible at Milk Can site

New life for old icon: Microbrewery possible at Milk Can site

The Milk Can, a former ice cream shop and clam shack, moved to its current location on Rte. 146 northbound near the intersection with Sayles Hill Road after former Lakeside Pools owner Frank D’Andrea purchased it in 1987. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
Owners of Lakeside Pools planning major development project

NORTH SMITHFIELD — The rusted, rotted and graffiti-covered building is a familiar sight for anyone who drives regularly up Rte. 146 northbound by Sayles Hill Road. Originally located a mile south of its current location, the Milk Can closed in 1968 after more than 35 years of serving up ice cream, burgers and fried clams to passing motorists and locals enjoying a night out.

Frank D’Andrea, the late owner of Lakeside Pools, purchased the building in 1987 and moved it to land adjacent to his family’s business with the intention of reopening the roadside spot, but the project encountered challenges from the beginning. Groundwater contamination and a lack of municipal water lines kept the business from opening, and in 2004, tragedy struck when Frank was killed in a motorcycle accident. Since then, the building has sat vacant, hardly noticed except by curious passersby and local history buffs.

Now, more than 30 years after the family purchased the building, Frank’s grandson, Steven D’Andrea, is picking up where his grandfather left off. The younger D’Andrea has been in talks with municipal and state authorities about developing the Milk Can and the surrounding property into a commercial space.

“I’m really just trying to continue what he had started and wasn’t able to finish and get it back online,” D’Andrea told The Valley Breeze.

According to a pre-application submitted to the town of North Smithfield, the new space will include a gas station, a drive-through restaurant and office space. As for the Milk Can itself, the family plans to restore the building to maintain the original look of the structure and return it to a retail space. It’s uncertain exactly what type of business the former ice cream shop will house, but D’Andrea said one of the ideas they’ve been floating is a microbrewery and cider house.

“We’re actually getting ready to launch a GoFundMe campaign for the restoration of it as well, which will be a good way to gauge interest in the building if there is any,” he said.

Though planning has been ongoing since 2012, D’Andrea anticipates another 12 to 24 months before the necessary approvals come through to start building. The section of the Rte. 146 corridor continues to be underdeveloped and lacks water and sewer lines, creating several logistical hurdles as the family draws up plans for well and septic tank construction.

In 2012, the previously contaminated groundwater was retested following a 20-year remediation and found to comply with federal and state water quality standards. The owners are also developing a second well located farther from the property, resolving the question of a water source for the time being. In the long term, however, they would like to see the property connected to municipal water supply.

“We’ve been in talks with neighboring towns. As you can imagine, the cost of bringing water up Sayles Hill Road is not cheap,” said D’Andrea. “For us to bring the water up the highway, we’d really need to do some justification for it and it would have to be sustainable for the overall project.”

According to Town Planner Tom Kravitz, final approval for the project will also depend on the creation of a traffic plan for entry and exit of the parking lot, as the site is located on a busy stretch of highway where vehicles generally accelerate after passing the traffic light at the intersection with Sayles Hill Road. Eventually, town officials would like to remove the light, leading to the creation of a new traffic plan for the site along with other local businesses.

“Long term, these are the things we have to think about when we’re talking about how to reuse or even reinvigorate the Milk Can,” said Kravitz. “What’s it going to be like if cars are going by there going 65 miles an hour if they’re not stopping, if (the light is) gone?”

Despite the hurdles, D’Andrea is optimistic, and, pending Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Department of Health approval, hopes to move groundbreaking of the site up to next fall. Lakeside Pools and the surrounding property have been in his family for 50 years, the Milk Can more than half that period, and both are ready for a new phase of life.

“It’s been home for our family for 50 years. It’s been very sentimental,” he said.

Pre-application plans for the space between the Milk Can, at far right, and Lakeside Pools, far left, show a mix of restaurant, retail, office and commercial space.


Awesome project...
keep the faith to project complettion.

One of the best places to stop in, oh the family memories. Had the best vanilla frappes!! Good luck with this project. Great reminder of RI really, and wonderful good times.

Where did the milk can come from? I like the idea but the location is a death trap for traffic! Trying to keep the faith.

It used to sit on the right side of 146N just where 99N now comes down and intersects with 146
I recall the picnic tables stacked around the place in great numbers during the off season...