Ice cream has been around and enjoyed for centuries, but the soft-serve concept wasn’t developed until 1938 by Iowa-born John Fremont McCullough and his son Alex. Together they convinced a buddy, Sherb Noble, to offer the innovative product in his soft ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois, a small town south of Chicago. On the first day of sales, to everyone’s surprise, Noble dished out greater than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within a couple of hours. (Seems like it was popular.) Knowing they were onto something big, Noble and the McCulloughs went on to open the initial Dairy Queen menu a couple of years later in Joliet, Illinois, placing Mr. Noble at the helm (who better) which opened for business on June 22, perfect timing for the long, hot summer. Although this original site has not been operational since the 1950s, the building still stands as being a designated landmark, hearkening back to simpler times for Boomers who pass by.
For many years, Dairy Queens were and are a fixture of social interaction in small towns from the Midwest and South and through the 70s, checking up on the times (and also the competition), most DQs added fast food, including sausages, hamburgers and fries, referring to their newest menu items as “Brazier.” Although several shops are only open during the summer time, most stay open year-round. After all, why consume frozen treats just seasonally except if you are now living in North Dakota? The biggest store is found in Bloomington, IL, home of a state university, Busiest honors go to Prince Edward Island, Canada (go figure). In 2014, Dairy Queen listed over 6,400 stores in additional than 25 countries (75% in which will be in the U.S.). For decades, the old adage boasted every Texas town experienced a DQ. While no more literally true as small-town America dwindles, the largest concentration is still within the Lone Star State.
All DQs now provide the Orange Julius drink, a brandname that they acquired in 1987, and many shops are available in food courts and shopping centers nationwide. DQ actually has two official fan clubs: Blizzard and Orange Julius. Blizzard fans, over 4 million strong, get their choices seriously, with a number of ingredients and mix-ins available. DQ also provides specialty frozen treats cakes, with their traditional selection of soft-serve treats, cone dippings and toppings.
Throughout the country, many single-unit mom and pop stands took notice and opened up on Memorial Day catering to the regional children, with walk-up stands, often calling themselves “frozen custard.” No one cared exactly what the name was, Dairy Queen prices meant vanilla and chocolate creamy cones and cups, maybe a few picnic tables to linger at, as well as an after-dinner treat within walking distance of home. Local kids looked to their short but sweet hours, which sadly closed after Labor Day. Simple names like Al’s, Bert’s or Tastee Treat started yfewqe pop up on busy corners and kids rode their bikes eagerly anticipating what awaited them, having a dime or a quarter stashed within their pocket. Rarely did these stands offer more than both basic flavors, but when one was lucky, there might be a strawberry flavor too (oh, boy). (Author’s note: her local soft-serve stand featured green mint, that was over the top, especially with hot fudge.)
Minor competitors like Tastee-Freez and Fosters Freeze both were only available in California within the 1950s and also have under 50 locations each but carry on and thrive using a cadre of loyal customers.
So who is up for a few soft-serve? Any time of year it hits the spot. Should you don’t possess shops in your area, maybe a frozen yogurt, but it won’t be the same. Check your local shopping mall and you simply might luck out. And don’t worry: mom was wrong, it won’t spoil your dinner.