Everyone knows that for decades Dairy Queen® stores have been a special place in the community where friends and families visit for a unique combination of amazing treats, delicious food and great times. However, not many know that the first Dairy Queen location opened more than 70 years ago, on June 22, 1940, in Joliet, Ill. Even fewer of our fans know that the original building that was home to that first DQ® store still exists. Constructed in 1895, this structure has also held a funeral home and, in the late 1930s, a grocery store. Today a small church conducts weekly services there as well.
In early 2011, in recognition that Joliet was home to the original Dairy Queen store, the Joliet City Council voted to protect the building located at 501 North Chicago Street as a historic landmark. In honor of this proclamation, the city and Dairy Queen representatives planned a brief celebration to recognize the building as a protected site. Various Joliet city officials, as well as the president and CEO of International Dairy Queen, Inc., John Gainor; as well as Jennifer Rintelman, grand daughter of Sherb Noble, our first franchisee, made presentations at the event.
After photos were taken and Dilly® Bars were enjoyed, attendees walked a few blocks from the Joliet Area Historical Museum, where the celebration took place, to the building on North Chicago. As attendees took more photos and reminisced about what it must have been like to operate a DQ store out of this location, Janita Ruth, one of the original customers of this location 70 years ago, stopped by to see what the commotion was all about. Janita shared with us what it was like for her, as a 10-year-old girl, to taste this revolutionary product, and what a thrill it was when her family had the money to visit the location to purchase a 5-cent DQ cone or 8-cent sundae. Although it may have been a coincidence that Janita happened to walk by this former DQ location at the same time everyone was gathered to take photos and view the building, it was as if history came alive for just a few short moments.
Appreciating our heritage is, and will always be, a key value in the DQ system. Having the opportunity to witness the exact site where it all began made for a special day for all of us associated with this great brand.