The first Dairy Queen store opened in Joliet, Ill. in 1940. By 1947, 100 stores were in operation which mushroomed to 1,446 just three years later.
Today, the Dairy Queen system claims to be one of the largest fast food systems in the world with 5,900 restaurants in the United States, Canada and 20 foreign countries.
The Columbia City DQ Grill and Chill was built about 45 years ago according to Tammi Woodward, co-owner of the franchise with her husband, Doug. Twenty-year owners of the local store, they acquired the Kendallville store two years ago. Their franchise is one of only 30 in North America which qualifies to take on the role of training the next generation of leaders in the business.
“We’ve had 12 classes this year,” said co-owner Tammi Woodward. “One a month.”
She doesn’t see the training as an added responsibility so much as an opportunity.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to do this,” she said. “And it makes us better by having these folks in our store.”
The trainees come from all over. “Some from Florida, Georgia and one from North Dakota,” this year, Woodward said.
This week Phase II training is ongoing for Sam Patel from Orland Park, Ill. who received his Phase I training here as well, and Latoria Wilson from Fairmount, W.V. Wilson had her Phase I training in Youngstown, Pa. Phase II focuses on customer service and management.
Patel, originally from India, emigrated to Chicago about three years ago and has lived in San Francisco for a time as well. He has worked in the DQ chain for two years.
When asked what he thought of the midwest, he did not hesitate. Of our winters he said, “Four months here is like hell!” adding “You can’t go outside.”
Naturally, he was put on the drivethrough window for his training.
Wilson’s story is no less cosmopolitan. She was adopted at the age of two from Vietnam. She also is not fond of our winters.
Though she has had some fast-food experience, she is learning DQ standards for the first time here and will take her expertise back to West Virginia to a brand-new store.
Asked what their favorite item on the menu is, Patel said, “I love ice cream. The Blizzard is my favorite thing.” He admits to eating a French Silk Pie Blizzard every day.
“I have to control myself,” Patel said.
Wilson prefers warmer fare, being partial to the chicken basket.
Both will be training at the Columbia City DQ Grill and Chill until Dec. 15 and would surely enjoy a warm Whitley County welcome. Especially while temperatures are below freezing.