Dairy Queen celebrates 45 years in Hudson
In the 45 years since Hudson's own Dairy Queen opened, nearly a thousand students have crossed the threshold to start their first job. Thousands more children, adults and dogs have enjoyed the soft frozen treats that are what kicked off the Dairy Queen franchise in the 1940s.
Its roots are in Illinois. In 1938 a father and son team talked a good friend into selling a product they had been experimenting with, a soft frozen dairy product. Within two hours over 1,600 servings were dished up. In those days, franchising was unheard of but with the initial success and potential of the new product, it seemed like the best approach. The first store opened in Joliet, Ill., in 1940. According to Dairy Queen's Web site, when the United States entered World War II in December 1941, there were less than 10 Dairy Queen stores. Shortly after the war, the system took off. With only 100 stores in 1947, the number grew to 1,446 in 1950 and nearly doubled in five years to 2,600 in 1955. Today, there are more than 5,900 Dairy Queens worldwide.
Hudson entered the system on April 28, 1965, when Sigvald J. Haug built and opened the Hudson's very own Dairy Queen at 9 South Second St., its location to this day. In 1970, Haug leased the store to Norman M. Olson, who purchased it in the early 1970s. At that time it was being managed by Bob and Rose Green, who also managed the River Falls Dairy Queen for its owner Tom Linehan.
Jay Wollan, Hudson Middle School math teacher, worked at the River Falls' Dairy Queen beginning in 1962 while he was in high school and continued through college.
"As a young teacher in Hudson, I needed extra income so I started to work for the Greens in Hudson," said Wollan. That was in 1973. By 1975 the Greens were ready to slow down and the lease would become available on the Hudson store.
"I told Norman Olson I wanted to give it a try," said Wollan. "He gave me a shot at it and we operated it from 1975 to 1981.
"We were open from March to October," said Wollan. "My wife Linda managed it during the day and I came down after school and managed it at night." Three years into managing the Hudson DQ, owner Norman Olson, started to indicate he might want to sell the business."
While Wollan was definitely interested, Norman's son Chuck ended up taking over the business in 1981.
"We had a good time, we were young and I knew the kids who worked for me from school," said Wollan. "It was just a really nice experience. It was fun and if we had bought it I probably wouldn't be teaching now. Treats are their niche -- that's the major part of their sales. It was like liquid gold."
In 1981 Chuck Olson took over until 2005 when he sold the business to Justin Reischel, who like Wollan, had worked while he was in high school at the Dairy Queen in Hudson.
"I enjoyed working here and always had a dream of having a chance to own it," said Reischel a 1995 Hudson High School graduate. "I have so many memories of this place even as a kid coming up to the window to order. My folks and I would order a dilly bar or a small dip cone and go up to Birkmose Park and watch the sunsets."
"The Dairy Queen was the destination of our Catholic school bus at the end of the school year in the mid-1960s," said Maggie Hall. "We were all rewarded with a Dilly bar by our bus driver for being good on the bus. There were probably 45 kids riding the bus; everyone got one, even the "bad" kids! If I remember correctly they were 10 cents each. This was before Catholic school students were allowed to ride the public school bus."
Like Wollan and Reischel, the Dairy Queen offered something to other families as well. Ann Scobey worked 23 years at Dairy Queen, for both Wollan and Olson.
"When I started my daughter Louann was already working there," said Scobey, who was soon joined by her daughters Amy and Joan. Amy (Laatsch) continues to work for Reischel today and a third generation is on the job, Scobey's granddaughter, Chelsea Solfest.
"When I started it was just the walk-up window," said Scobey. "I went through a lot of high school kids. It was kind of fun teaching them. Using the machines to make the treats was no problem but making change before we had automatic cash registers was a different matter."
"I like working with the public," continued Scobey who recalls two older gentlemen from St. Paul who always stopped for a cone after fishing. "We were the only fast food place downtown so we also had a lot of regulars for lunch."
Amy (Scobey) Laatsch worked briefly for Olson in 1986. She has presently been working at Dairy Queen for 10 years.
"It a job that works for me," said Laatsch. "Both Chuck and Justin have been fabulous to work for."
For Reischel, who still loves to make Dilly Bars even though he owns the business, it is not like work. It is something he continues to enjoy every day.
"It brings back memories every time I make one," said Reischel. "Back when I worked here in high school we also had Queens Choice, hard ice cream but otherwise it is pretty much the same."
The Blizzard remains one of Reischel's favorite products and later this year the chain is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the treat by creating 25 flavors.
"I always thought our ice cream was special. It's hard to describe - it's light and tasty," said Rieschel. "It is just as good today. That's the cool thing about being open for 45 years -- the ice cream product still brings in the customers." In Hudson they also create all of their own cakes, which remain a steady growth item.
Of course, they also offer a full grill menu but the childhood memories that most people recall relate to the soft ice cream creations.
"We are planning a big 45th anniversary celebration for March 5, 6 and 7," said Reischel. "We will be offering 45 cent cones and hot dogs." Hudson's Dairy Queen is now open year round, employing up to 30 people in the summer time. It is open seven days a week 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 10:30 p.m. in the summer.
For more information about Dairy Queen and its history, go to www.dairyqueen.com