Freeport Mayor Russ Barley has announced the pending arrival of a Dairy Queen to open in the same plaza as the town's new Publix grocery store.

Barley was excited to receive the eatery's pre-qualifying papers earlier this month and make the announcement. Construction should begin in January.

Freeport City Planner Latilda Neel is also working with McDonald's and Waffle House, who are expected to turn in their pre-qualifying papers shortly to join Dairy Queen in the Publix Plaza. McDonald's applied for its building permit last week.

Adding to the good news, Barley hears that Ace Hardware is poised to come to the city also.

All the new eateries will be located next to each other to the right of Publix.

"Now we'll have somewhere to go at night," he said with a laugh. "We'll love it during ball season after the games."

Right now, those with ball games that run late have to drive to DeFuniak Springs to get a bite to eat.

"Even the drive thru at Hardee's is not open past 9 p.m. now," said Barley.

Barley is a Freeport native whose big adventure when he was growing up was going to DeFuniak Springs.

"There was no fast food in Freeport," he said.

Barley moved away for 25 years and has been back now for 27 years.

"People had to move away for jobs," he said.

When he returned to his roots Barley opened a flower shop, which he has operated for 27 years, and he also owns a ladies' dress shop in town. He is in his fifth year as mayor, just winning re-election in July. His father was the city's second mayor.

"I realized that the city's positioning was perfect to market for businesses to come here with its proximity to the beach and interstate. We're moving forward," he said.

The Hammock Bay development has almost 3,000 people now pushing the city's residents to almost 5,000.

"Freeport is growing by leaps and bounds," said a proud Barley. "We've got three or four developments going now and with three new restaurants, those bring it up to 10."

Neel said the new McDonald's will have a new more contemporary look to it, like the one in DeFuniak Springs.