For once, the rumors were true … well, one of the rumors was true: Dairy Queen is coming to DeWitt.
Specifically, it’s a DQ Grill & Chill, the expanded version of the iconic soft-serve ice cream franchise that serves burgers and sandwiches in addition to the frozen treats.
If all goes according to plan, it would open on DeWitt’s main thoroughfare in three months — in mid-October.
Construction crews began working this week for DeWitt businessman Jim Devine, who broke ground this week at a location on the 1200 block of 11th Street after recently obtaining a franchise. Devine did not want to disclose the cost of purchasing the land or building the store. He estimates there will be 25 to 30 employees when fully operational.
Devine, who also owns Subway and Travel Mart in DeWitt, is excited about opening a Dairy Queen in his hometown.
“What could be better than putting a smile on someone’s face?” he said. “Dairy Queen is that kind of place, especially for kids.”
Devine addressed a rumor that he planned to combine Subway and the new Dairy Queen restaurant operate them in one building.
“I don’t know who came up with that rumor, or how it stuck,” Devine said with a chuckle. “I just can’t figure that one out. Why wouldn’t Dairy Queen have its own location?”
In his mind, Devine thinks DeWitt “deserves” a Dairy Queen.
“This is where I’ve been since I was 4 years old,” he said. “I’m proud of this town. People rally together here.”
Dairy Queen was an early pioneer in franchising. It multiplied quickly, jumping from 10 stores in 1941 to 2,600 stores in 1955. Berkshire Hathaway, led by billionaire business magnate Warren Buffett, purchased the company and changed the name to IDQ — International Dairy Queen Inc. As of 2017, there were 6,800 locations around the world.
Devine said he had been seeking a Dairy Queen franchise since 2008. His biggest obstacle was finding a good location. On two occasions, his property-buying plans fell through at the last minute. Worse yet, one property operator that he was working with sued Dairy Queen. Devine still doesn’t fully understand what exactly led to the litigation; it didn’t involve him. However, his franchise plans skidded to a halt during the legal battle.
“I couldn’t pursue a franchise agreement for four years while that case played out,” he said.
But just when Devine started to think Dairy Queen wasn’t in the cards … the phone rang.
“It was IDQ wanting to know if I was still interested,” he said. “It’s like it was destiny.”
Devine intervention perhaps?
After he was contacted by IDQ, the advancement through the process started to speed up. Before he knew it, he had a license for a DQ Grill & Chill.
He learned the ropes from his father, Mike, a former business executive and entrepreneur who has been showing Jim the ropes since he was a young boy.
“I did every dirty job you can think of,” he said of working at his father’s truck stop.
Jim says his dad taught him everything he knows about the business side of the retail and service industries, and he became more and more passionate about learning the food preparation side. He said that he is passionate and prideful about the food he serves.
He also is looking for managers and employees with good customer service skills.
“It’s a fun industry; I want it to be a cool place to go to with great food,” Devine added. “I’m really looking forward to it, and I hope others are, too.”