Dairy Queen | Joliet, Illinois
The Soft-serve formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont "J.F." "Grandpa" McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced friend and loyal customer Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois. On the first day of sales, Noble dished out more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within two hours. Noble and the McCulloughs went on to open the first Dairy Queen store in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. While this Dairy Queen has not been in operation since the 1950s, the building still stands at 501 N Chicago Street as a city-designated landmark.
Since 1940, the chain has used a franchise system to expand its operations globally from ten stores in 1941 to one hundred by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955. The first store in Canada opened in Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada, 1953. In the US, the state with the most Dairy Queen restaurants is Texas. Using the 2010 census, the state with the most Dairy Queen restaurants per person is Minnesota.
In the 1990s, investors bought Dairy Queen stores that were individually owned, intending to increase profitability through economies of scale. Vasari, LLC became the second-largest Dairy Queen operator in the country and operated 70 Dairy Queens across Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. When stores were not profitable, these investment firms closed stores that did not meet their profitability goals. On October 30, 2017, the Vasari LLC filed for bankruptcy and announced it was closing 29 stores, including 10 in the Texas Panhandle.
International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) is the parent company of Dairy Queen. In the United States, it operates under American Dairy Queen Corp.
At the end of fiscal year 2014, Dairy Queen reported over 6,400 stores in more than 25 countries; about 4,500 of its stores (approximately 70%) were located in the United States.
The red Dairy Queen symbol was introduced in 1958. The company became International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) in 1962. IDQ is the parent company of American Dairy Queen Corporation (which owns the DQ intellectual property, and is often abbreviated "Am. D.Q. Corp." in the chain's legal disclaimers), Dairy Queen Canada Inc., and other entities that franchise the Dairy Queen concept.
In 1987, IDQ bought the Orange Julius chain. IDQ was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1998.
Dairy Queens were a fixture of social life in small towns of the Midwestern and Southern United States during the 1950s and 1960s. In that role, they have often come to be referenced as a symbol of life in small-town America, as in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond by Larry McMurtry, Dairy Queen Days by Robert Inman, and Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights by Bob Greene.