Frozen treats 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 pal, Sherb Noble, to offer the innovative product in his 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 more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within a couple of hours. (Seems like it was a hit.) Knowing they were onto something big, Noble and the McCulloughs went on to open the initial Dairy Queen prices two 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. Even if 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 years, Dairy Queens were and they are a fixture of social interaction in small towns of the Midwest and South and through the 70s, keeping up with the days (and the competition), most DQs added fast food, including sausages, hamburgers and fries, referring to their newest menu items as “Brazier.” Although a few shops are only open in the summer, most stay open year-round. All things considered, why consume frozen treats just seasonally unless you are now living in North Dakota? The largest store is situated in Bloomington, IL, home of any state university, Busiest honors go to Prince Edward Island, Canada (go figure). In 2014, Dairy Queen listed over 6,400 stores in than 25 countries (75% which have been in the U.S.). For decades, the previous adage boasted every Texas town experienced a DQ. While no more literally true as small-town America dwindles, the biggest concentration continues to be in the Lone Star State.
All DQs now provide the Orange Julius drink, a brand that they can acquired in 1987, and many shops can be found in food courts and departmental stores nationwide. DQ actually has two official fan clubs: Blizzard and Orange Julius. Blizzard fans, over 4 million strong, place their choices seriously, with a variety of ingredients and mix-ins available. DQ also offers specialty frozen treats cakes, along with their traditional selection of soft-serve treats, cone dippings and toppings.
Across the nation, many single-unit mom and pop stands took notice and exposed on Memorial Day catering to the neighborhood children, with walk-up stands, often calling themselves “frozen custard.” No one cared what the name was, Dairy Queen breakfast meant vanilla and chocolate creamy cones and cups, perhaps a few picnic tables to linger at, and an after-dinner treat within walking distance of home. Local kids looked toward 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 youngsters rode their bikes eagerly anticipating what awaited them, with a dime or a quarter stashed within their pocket. Rarely did these stands offer a lot more than both basic flavors, but if one was lucky, there might be a strawberry flavor also (oh, boy). (Author’s note: her local soft-serve stand featured green mint, which had been over the top, particularly with hot fudge.)
Minor competitors like Tastee-Freez and Fosters Freeze both were only available in California within the 1950s and possess under 50 locations each but still thrive using a cadre of loyal customers.
So who may be up for many soft-serve? Any time of year it hits the spot. If you don’t have any shops in your area, perhaps a frozen yogurt, however it won’t become 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.