Moorhead Business News
Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Marin Schultz may be the new owner of the Dairy Queen Grill and Chill in south Moorhead, but she is already an old hand at guiding the team who craft dip cones and dilly bars, Blizzards and ice cream cakes, and the chicken strips and burgers that fill out the hot side of the menu.
After six years as the regional manager of seven franchise stores across the region, she purchased the DQ at Eighth Street and 30th Avenue South last October. It joins two others purchased earlier, one in Wahpeton, the other in Dickinson.
“I love these guys,” she says of the 14 women and men employed at the south-side store. She’s currently interviewing applicants for the positions that will come online with the advent of summer. “Some of them have been with us longer than I have,” including general manager Jamie Russness, now in her seventh year, and assistant manager Lexi Stickel, in her eighth.
Marin’s favorite part of the business, she says, is not the soft-serve ice cream or the crispy chicken strips. It’s the customers. “I love being front and center, ringing up their orders. But I’m in the grill a lot, too. I’m very hands-on.”
Marin manages her three DQ stores from the home in Christine, North Dakota, that she shares with husband Todd, an NDT technician with Braun Intertec. From that base, she reports visiting her stores here and in Wahpeton every day and in Dickinson every week.
The restaurant business is in Marin’s blood. She grew up working in her parents’ establishments, including The Depot in Rapid City, South Dakota. “I’ve always been in the restaurant business. I was washing dishes for my parents when I was 12 years old,” she says. “But I’d never been in fast food until I joined Dairy Queen when I moved here.” She came to the Red River Valley in 2018, drawn by her relationship with the man she married last summer.
Unlike Moorhead’s original Dairy Queen shop downtown, the south-side location must follow the international franchise’s rather famous menu selections. That doesn’t mean, however, that Marin can’t put her own spin on the treats her crew offers their clientele. “We make all our own dilly bars right here. Lots of other Dairy Queens have stopped doing their own because it’s so labor-intensive, but I insist on it,” she says. “If you taste-test one of the pre-packaged bars and then try one of ours … well, there’s just no comparison.”
Drive-through service is a key to keeping her store busy year-round, even during the depths of the Minnesota winter. “Seventy percent of our business comes through the drive-through,” she reports. “It has been so good for us. It meant we could safely stay open during the COVID shut downs, and it’s convenient for our customers no matter what the weather is like.” She is proud of her crew’s commitment to moving each carload through in three minutes or so from placing their orders to driving away with treats in hand … “five at the very most,” she adds.
She’s equally proud of the cooler full of decorated cakes, both traditional DQ style and the newer Blizzard cakes. “You can custom-order in advance or come in and pick one from the freezer. Either way, our cake decorators will personalize it however you wish.” She’ll even through in a serving tip. “Do let it sit out for 20 minutes to soften before you cut it so it doesn’t break your knife. Trust me – I’ve learned that the hard way.”
Marin acknowledges that her south-side Dairy Queen is less well-known than the historic downtown DQ established in 1949 by Bob and Phyllis Litherland. “It’s nothing less than a Moorhead treasure. I’ve met Troy and Diane DeLeon, too, and they’re great,” she says. “Dairy Queen has room for all of us.”
And sharing the same city has some unexpected benefits. “The day they open downtown is always our own busiest day of the year,” she confides. “Ice cream is on everyone’s mind on March 1. But if that line looks like it’s going to take too long, they can jump in the car and head down here to our drive-through.”