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Small Business of the Year: Moorhead Dairy Queen

September 1st, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

On the corner of 8th and Main in Moorhead, there’s a place that has stood the test of time with a sweet story behind it. But it isn’t just any fast food restaurant. The Moorhead Dairy Queen is a treasured gem in our community—and around the nation.

troy and diane

In fact, it’s celebrating its 68th year of business! And much of the store’s success can be credited to Bob and Phyllis Litherland, the original founders who set a standard of hard work and dedication that the current owners have proudly followed over the past 23 years.

This walk-up style Dairy Queen is one of the oldest original stores in the entire Dairy Queen system. Aside from favorite treats such as Bar-B-Que sandwiches and hand-dipped Buster and Dilly Bars, you can also find an outdoor patio under signature red and white umbrellas. They even have “doggie dishes” for that favorite canine in your life!

dog at DQCurrent owners Troy and Diane DeLeon are humble, and never made a point to announce their new ownership of the location. Instead, they snuck in under the radar and focused on maintaining all the old practices handed down from the Litherlands—namely offering a quality product at a fair price for families and friends to gather at.

The original franchise contract was signed by the Litherlands on June 14, 1949. The transfer of ownership to the DeLeons was signed on the very same day 46 years later. It was that fact, coupled with a sermon that Sunday about taking a leap of faith that resonated with Diane, that sealed the deal for them to take on this adventure together all those years ago.

Tradition is extremely important to the couple, and perhaps the only thing higher on the list of priorities is customer service. Everything they do at the Moorhead DQ goes back to offering the best for every single person that walks up. That’s why almost everything on the menu is hand-made and triple checked and why the owners lead by example. Troy often goes to work at 6:30 a.m. to hose down the patio and sidewalks, complete equipment maintenance and begin cooking Bar-B-Que for the day.

There’s no doubt that the DeLeons care about their customers and their community from the bottom of their hearts, and their work ethic is second to none. Both Troy and Diane work every single day during the eight-month season. And they also go above and beyond to support their community. The team looks forward to their annual Miracle Treat event each year. It is one of the busiest days of the entire season! They love every opportunity to support Sanford Children’s Hospital, and get involved in numerous other fundraisers and benefits. They are also excited to sponsor WDAY’s Honor Flight this summer, especially since the founder Bob Litherland was a Korean War and World War II veteran.

dq ice cream

What’s also impressive is how well they treat their staff, which they kindly refer to as their “co-workers,” displaying more of their humble attitude that makes them so likable. “We pride ourselves on hiring bright and hardworking individuals with smiling personalities,” Diane said. “They are great representatives of our business and the Dairy Queen brand.”

Speaking of hiring, the DeLeons are interested in hiring an additional day assistant.

Troy and Diane also fondly recall when they bought the Dairy Queen, the Litherlands insisted that they work in the store before they would sell it to them to ensure they knew what it took to run a successful store. “We will do the same, looking for just the right couple with a strong marriage and a solid work ethic,” Diane said. “The third owners of the Moorhead Dairy Queen will need to love it as much. They have to have a full realization that this is more than just a building with a Dairy Queen sign on the roof. It is about tradition, sense of community, faithful customers, amazing co-workers and relationships built throughout the years.”

While much in the world has changed in the last 68 years, you can count on the Moorhead Dairy Queen to continue serving up smiles for many more with old-fashioned flavor and a big helping of hospitality.

Fun facts

  • Open 8 months out of the year, from March to October
  • The store recently earned another Dairy Queen Royal Pride Award for an outstanding level of cleanliness and food safety.
  • Troy makes between 20 and 60 lbs of BBQ a day
  • The DeLeons are only the second owners in 68 years
  • Each DQ co-worker has 1 month of training before being put on the schedule
  • Our YEA! winner Bridget McManamon works here!
  • The Moorhead store offers a “Heritage Menu” that features several old fashioned Dairy Queen treats.
  • The store still operates under its 1949 contract.
  • The Moorhead DQ was featured on NBC Nightly News in 2015 and has gained other national media attention
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