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Route 66 News

Dairy Queen officials visit original store

About 20 company officials from Minneapolis-based Dairy Queen on Friday visited the restaurant where it all started — at 501 N. Chicago St. (aka Route 66) in Joliet, Ill., reported the Chicago Tribune.

The nearby Joliet Area Historical Museum passed out free DQ Dilly Bars to visitors. Then, Curly, DQ’s soft-serve cone mascot, led the group several blocks to the historic storefront building, where a plaque was dedicated. The building now serves as a church.

On June 22, 1940, Sherb Noble opened a Dairy Queen there and grossed a whopping $4,000 in revenues his first season. He made $88 on his most profitable day at the shop, which sits along the historic Route 66.

His granddaughter, Jennifer Rintelman, who now lives north of Milwaukee, sad Noble would never have imaged that the product would be so famous for so many years later.

“If he were here today, he would have been humbled by this gesture,” said Rintelman, whose family owns seven Dairy Queen franchises in the Kankakee and Aurora area. “Nothing gave him more pleasure than handing a perfect cone to a smiling customer.” […]

The Dairy Queen in Joliet closed in the early 1950s, and over the years the building has housed a lawn-mower repair business, furniture store, motorcycle shop and plumbers, said Bob Nachtrieb of the Joliet Historic Preservation Committee. He said the historic designation, approved Tuesday by the City Council, would give the building a measure of protection from being torn down or altered.

To its credit, Dairy Queen’s own website devotes considerable space to its history here.

This also goes to show that even though DQ now is a corporate behemoth that counts billionaire investor Warren Buffett as a fan, it started as a mom-and-pop operation.

UPDATE 5/21/2011: The Joliet Herald-News also published a story. Apparently the business served both black and white customers equally, which was unusual during the 1940s and 1950s, when it closed.

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