Dairy Queen celebrates 30 yearsPublished 6:39pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012
“I always know when spring comes — it’s when Dairy Queen is open,” said Ron Sather, president of the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce.
Many Niles residents are eagerly awaiting the season opening Friday of the second city location on Grant Street. The other, on Oak Street, opened March 2 — the earliest opening ever.
The three-generation management of Niles Dairy Queens is celebrating not the remarkably warm spring, but 30 years serving up soft-serve cones and other treats to customers.
3 decades of treats
Joe Patrick, DQ business consultant, presented owner Sandra Knauf a plaque commemorating 30 years at the Oak Street DQ.
Patrick said it is “rare” for a city the size of Niles to have two DQs.
Sandra and her husband, the late Kenneth Knauf, were teachers in Traverse City before they decided to purchase the Oak Street DQ 30 years ago from Marilyn Berget.
“It’s just something he always wanted to do,” Knauf said.
The Grant Street DQ was also purchased from Berget two years later.
Knauf said Niles had a population of at least 18,000 at that time, including many families, and the manufacturing industry was huge. Niles’ DQs still draw customers from Buchanan, Dowagiac, Galien and Edwardsburg.
“We had a lot of industry,” Knauf said, but added, “We have a huge customer base compared to back then.”
The DQs are busiest from 2 p.m. to close at 9 p.m. every day. The Oak Street DQ now staffs five people — they only had two working 30 years ago.
Dairy Queen has grown substantially since the Knaufs started in the business. It now has about 5,000 franchises in the U.S. and is growing worldwide. The first DQ started in 1940 in Joliet, Ill.
“We’ve gone from a mom-and-pop franchise to one of the top franchises,” Knauf said.
The Knaufs bought their DQs before the launch 26 years ago of the Blizzard, now DQ’s biggest seller annually. The bestseller at DQ as a whole is the Oreo Blizzard.
Michael Reed, operations manager and Knauf’s grandson, said many Niles customers prefer a vanilla soft-serve cone.
“They love the classic ice cream cone,” he said.
A medium cone cost 39 cents about 30 years ago. The same cone costs $1.89 today.
Weather or not
Michael pushed to open the Oak Street DQ on March 2. Thankfully, the weather was more typical for July than March, which helped sales.
“I always said we would do good business in March, regardless of the weather,” said general manager Kari Reed, Michael’s mother and Knauf’s daughter.
“Sales have been good here and across the country because of the weather,” Patrick said.
The air conditioner was stolen from the Grant Street location in the off-season, and vandals broke into the Oak Street DQ in February and stole candy. The perpetrators were eventually caught.
The incidents had no affect on the opening dates, the Reeds said. They usually close both DQs the first weekend in October.
The Reed family has kept working at the DQs a tradition. Kari’s son, Nicholas, works the grill at Grant Street, and her daughter, Nichole, was a cake decorator.
Both Niles DQ locations — 322 Grant St. and 1445 Oak St. — are open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NilesDairyQueens.
What’s their favorite DQ treat?
Kari Reed, Niles general manager — Peanut Buster Parfait
Michael Reed, operations manager — Mocha MooLatte
Sandra Knauf, owner — Pecan Cluster Blizzard
Joe Patrick, Dairy Queen business consultant — Oreo Blizzard
Tags: Niles Dairy Queens