On the first day of sales, to everybody’s surprise, Noble dished out over 1,600 portions of this new dessert within two hours. Recognizing that they were onto something big, Noble and the McCulloughs went on to start the first Dairy Queen shop a couple of decades later in Joliet, Illinois, putting Mr. Noble at the helm (who better) which opened for business on June 22, perfect timing for its long, hot summer.
For years, Dairy Queens were and are a fixture of social life in tiny cities of the Midwest and South and from the 70s, keeping up with the times (and the competition), many DQs added quickly food, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and fries, referring to their menu items as”Brazier.” Although a few stores are only open in summer time, most remain open year-round. After all, why eat frozen treats just seasonally if you don’t live in North Dakota? In 2014, Dairy Queen recorded over 6,400 shops in over 25 countries (75 percent of which are in the U.S.). For decades, the old adage boasted every Texas city had a DQ. While no more actually accurate as small-town America dwindles, the greatest concentration remains in the Lone Star State.
All DQs currently provide the Orange Julius drink, a brand that they obtained in 1987, and several shops are available in food courts and shopping malls nationwide. DQ really has two fan clubs: Blizzard and Orange Julius. Blizzard fans, more than 4 million strong, take their decisions seriously, with an assortment of components and mix-ins available. DQ also supplies specialty ice cream cakes, together with their traditional choice of soft-serve treats, cone dippings and toppings.
Throughout the nation, many single-unit mom and pop stands notice and opened on Memorial Day catering to the regional kids, with walk-up stands, often calling themselves”frozen custard.” No one cared what the title was, it meant chocolate and vanilla creamy cones and cups, possibly a couple of picnic tables to linger at, and an after-dinner treat in walking distance of the home. Simple names such as Al’s, Bert’s or Tastee Treat began to pop up on busy corners and kids rode their bicycles eagerly expecting what awaited them, using a dime or a quarter stashed in their pocket. Rarely did these racks provide more than the two basic tastes, but if one was lucky, there may be a strawberry taste too (oh, boy). (Writer’s note: her regional soft-serve stand comprised green mint, which was on the top, especially with hot fudge.)
Minor competitors like Tastee-Freez and Fosters Freeze both began in California in the 1950s and have less than 50 places each but continue to flourish with a cadre of loyal clients.
So who’s up for a few soft-serve? If you do not have any stores near you, possibly a frozen yogurt, but it will not be exactly the same. Check your regional shopping mall and you might luck out. And do not worry: mother was incorrect, it won’t spoil your dinner.