CENTERVILLE, Utah (ABC4) – Julie Thompson, who along with her husband, Scott, owns the Dairy Queen in Centerville recently gathered her employees to give them some big news.
Really big news.
After over two decades of owning and managing the popular ice cream and fast-food restaurant, which has been in their family for more than 30 years, Thompson had decided to sell the property to new ownership.
The Dairy Queen on Parrish Lane, a staple of family activity in Davis County since 1984, would be closing down.
“They were really quiet,” Thompson recalls of her announcement’s impact on her crew. “I think they were shocked and really didn’t have a lot to say.”
For many teenagers in the area, serving up a Blizzard or working the extremely busy drive-thru is their first job. One employee, Derek, has been at the location for 25 years. Knowing he might be especially affected by the announcement, Thompson decided to tell him a day before everyone else, to help him process the upcoming adjustment.
“That was hard for him,” Thompson says. “He’s still trying to work through it. He’s very routine driven and this has really rocked his world.”
Thompson told her employees that she did not want the upcoming closure to be a secret in the community, that the staff was free to tell their parents and friends about her decision. Word spread quickly across Centerville and Bountiful-centric Facebook groups. A bit of misinformation spread as a result. One person tried to launch a “Save Our Dairy Queen” campaign to raise awareness and drum up support to preserve the restaurant’s location on Parrish Lane in Centerville. That, however, was dismissed when Thompson asked the well-meaning resident to halt their efforts. The Thompson family does not want to “save” the Dairy Queen.
They’re ready to get out and move on, on their own terms.
“We always knew at some point, that our retirement would be selling it since we left our jobs to take over the family business 23 years ago,” she explains of her family’s decision process. “This has been on our mind for the last two or three years, even though we’re not close to retirement age yet. We just knew at some point, that would be the eventuality.”
The pandemic and the accompanying stress of managing a very popular restaurant in the middle of a global health crisis, along with a few other family factors, expedited the inevitable to arrive in the next few weeks. After dealing with more than a year of shifting health guidelines, up-and-down finances as a result of having to close the lobby during the busiest times of the year, and an increased workload on the owners due to the ongoing labor crisis, the time to close the book on the Centerville Dairy Queen had arrived.
“We’re completely exhausted. I think we’ve aged 10 years in the last year, and we’re just really tired,” Thompson states. “We’ve had offers over the years on the property and none of them was a good enough offer and it wasn’t the right time. And then an offer recently came in, that was a great offer. And it was at a time when we need to simplify.”
The Thompsons will still have a part in the community as owners of another Dairy Queen location in Woods Cross. That spot, they say, is smaller, more efficient, and does nearly as well in terms of popularity. Dairy Queen has always had a major place in Julie and Scott’s hearts as they met as teenagers at the location at the now-gone Ogden Mall. Thompson says she feels bittersweet about closing the Centerville store, which for many community members has been a center of family life, with pre-pandemic lines spilling out of the parking lot and into 400 West consistently.
Thompson is grateful for the support the community has given to her family for years through their love of frozen treats and chicken strip baskets. When her parents first bought the run-down store in their 60s, they were nervous and apprehensive about how they would fare in the area.
One of their first moves was to close the store on Sundays. Thompson says her father was nervous initially about what the response would be from the patrons due to the schedule change. The community, however, loved the move and as a result, the Centerville location was regularly the busiest Dairy Queen in the Intermountain region for many years, Thompson states.
However, the daily grind of keeping more than 1,000 customers across two locations safe from COVID infection, while dealing with shifts in health guidelines with little to no notice and a decreasing labor supply has caused the Thompsons to move up their plans and sell the iconic location. The sale of the property is currently in escrow, meaning there is still a chance the buyers could back out, but Thompson doesn’t expect that to happen. The Centerville Dairy Queen will close its doors for good on or around September 30, according to a recent Facebook post.
As part of the deal, the new owners can build or operate any kind of business they choose, except for a Dairy Queen. It’s unclear which kind of business or restaurant will be occupying the space but one thing is for sure, they won’t be serving Blizzards or Dilly Bars. The Thompsons do not wish to turn the keys to the Centerville DQ legacy to someone else. Going out on their own terms and with the fond memories of a community’s embrace is a priority for the family.
“It’s our family’s story so we’re gonna go out and write the last chapter ourselves,” she says.
Already, a slew of stories of first dates turned into lasting marriages or family traditions of ice cream outings for birthdays and other events have come pouring into the Dairy Queen’s social media and email channels. Thompson is hoping to invite more folks with memories to submit theirs in the coming days and weeks.
Due to the continued pandemic and labor shortage, Thompson regrettably won’t be able to welcome the community into the restaurant for a grand sendoff. She is, however, accepting reservations for groups of 12 or less this Saturday. If things go well, they could do additional reservation-only days for Centerville and Davis County residents looking for one last scoop of a Blizzard at the location.
Although there is a bit of sadness in closing up a restaurant that has been so meaningful to many in the area, Thompson is ready for the next chapter in her family’s story. It’s just gotten too hard lately, she says.
“People that know us personally are relieved for us. They’ve watched us the last year and are relieved that we’re going to escape with our health.”