Dwight’s Dairy Queen has been operated by the Oates Family for a third of a century as of May 1.
The business at 324 W. Mazon, was purchased by Paul Oates as of May 1, 1984, and is now run by Paul’s son, Bill Oates. At the time when the Dwight restaurant opened, Bill was 19 years old. Bill’s brother Steve was also involved with the business.
The Dairy Queen Franchise began some time after 1956 and before 1984, when the original ice cream shop was built on Mazon Avenue in Dwight. It later converted to a Dairy Queen. Bill was unsure when the DQ franchise took over in Dwight. In 1985, the store in Dwight was remodelled, featuring a step-down front dining area, but was built around the footprint of the original Dwight Dairy Queen on Mazon Ave. In 1987, the family also built the La Salle/Peru store, but have since sold that location. In 2007, while leaving the original location open, the family built a new store one lot west. This is the “grill & chill” restaurant currently serving Dwight. The original restaurant is now the DQ parking lot. The drive-through was added with the 2007 new building.
DQ employs 45 people, 10 of whom are full-time. He has had several people working there for a decade, he added. Bill had worked for his father four summers previously at a Dairy Queen in Bloomington, so this is Bill Oates’ 37th year with Dairy Queen. “I’m happy to be in Dwight,” Bill explained. “I enjoy it, like doing it, and dealing with people, talking to people.” He said he likes to see return customers, because that means they liked their first visit.
A third of a century ago, the DQ menu included basically burgers and ice cream. Today’s selections include different kinds of sandwiches, and a new super-thick “Blizzard” flavor of the month. A “Blizzard” is the DQ version of a milk shake.
Since 2007, the hamburgers are now flame-grilled, as opposed to flat-grilled, giving them an outdoor home-grilled flavor.
Ice cream is served at the restaurant all year round, even in sub-zero temperatures. However, Bill added that the ice cream sales hit a peak during hot summer days.