Thursday, March 9, will mark the 50th year the Homewood Dairy Queen opens under the ownership of the Welsh family.
Homewood and Flossmoor residents are expected to flock to the store at Ridge Road and Gladville Avenue, despite the colder temperatures. It’s the tradition that counts, and the Welsh family has been doing a great job of satisfying the community’s urges for those Dilly Bars, Blizzards and special treats.
In 1967, Art Welsh left his Chicago sales manager job of 20-plus years to take over the Dairy Queen from the Kaiser family. He and his wife, LaVerne, had six children and he put them all to work. He didn’t hire any outside help because he needed the revenue to pay the family’s bills, his son, Kevin, said.
Over the years that the Welshes owned the store, their children, grandchildren and cousins all worked at Dairy Queen. When Art died in 2008, Kevin bought the business. He still keeps family actively involved. Art’s great-grandchild, Deon Reynolds, a Homewood-Flossmoor High School sophomore, has come on board to serve up ice cream in all its special forms.
Kelly Welsh, Kevin’s youngest daughter, is the store manager and her sister, Katie Welsh Tracy, does the bookkeeping and payroll. Kevin Jr. handles the ordering of supplies.
Art’s oldest daughter, Judy, “is an integral part of my day-to-day operation,” Kelly said. “She cleans our machines every morning. She goes over everything with a ‘fine tooth comb.’ She just polishes everything and makes it possible for me to come in, start the machines right up, and begin production for the day.”
Alyce Stitnizky has been on staff for 18 years “and keeps me grounded,” says Kelly.
The Dairy Queen corporate office has awarded the Homewood Dairy Queen the Pride Award for its outstanding work at maintaining the highest standards.
For 50 years, the Dairy Queen has been serving Meadowvale ice cream. The company’s delivered 200 gallons of mix for the opening week, Kelly said
Because this Dairy Queen isn’t part of a franchise, all the DQ products sold at the Homewood store are hand made and packaged on site. This season Kelly will have 15 people on staff to take care of customers at the two service windows from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Some staff has been working for the past week to get everything ready and prepared for the rush of opening day.
“We have to start early because the ice cream (treats) have to be frozen,” Natalie Hamilton explained. She’s been working at DQ for six years.
“We find we have our help come back year after year,” Kelly said. “I have one college student home on break who’ll be here for opening day. It makes it easier to have experienced people working. I always tell them ‘You know you have a home here.’”
The store at 1700 Ridge Road hasn’t changed much. It’s still got the distinctive red roof, whitewashed brick walls and the logs in the back to sit upon.
The Welshes have added a few electric display signs and over time replaced the building’s windows and back door. In winter it is hidden behind plastic sheeting and plywood that Tom Welsh decorated to look like the American flag ― a special touch after 9/11.