Dairy Queen back in business

"There's a Blizzard coming to Oak Harbor this winter.And a Peanut Buster Parfait. And chocolate dipped cones.City residents can resume their love affair with the sweet treats and fast food of Dairy Queen starting this Monday. The business that opened in Oak Harbor in 1988, then abruptly closed in late August, is back in the Dilly Bar saddle.And it's back with a fresh look and a new attitude, courtesy of the business' new owners, Glen and Sally Groenig.We want to have fun and we want it to be a fun atmosphere for the families who come here, says Glen.First, that means making it pleasant inside. There's new colorful wallpaper, for example, fresh upholstery in the booths and new greenery everywhere, from real poinsettias to swags of Christmas decoration.Second, it means putting things in place for an efficient operation, from computerized cash registers to new cooking equipment.Third, it means hiring a strong staff. The Groenigs and their daughter Lee plan to work as hands-on managers. They conducted interviews all last week and just hired a crew of 26 people to run the restaurant.It's daunting to get things running from the ground up, but the Groenigs are not Dairy Queen neophytes.Glen and Sally recently moved to Whidbey Island from Yakima, where they operated Dairy Queen restaurants for 10 years. They sold their last Dairy Queen two years ago, and said they honestly weren't scouting for another one.But Glen, who once served as president of Dairy Queen Pacific Northwest (the umbrella organization for the region's 176 Dairy Queens), got a call from his friend Bob Lorentson. Lorentson and his wife Pat, of Snohomish, built the Oak Harbor Dairy Queen in 1988. They sold it to Jack and Lenea Heinemann of Canada in 1994, but became owners again this summer when the Heinemanns fell in arrears on payments and pulled out.The Lorentsons knew the Oak Harbor store could thrive when operated well, and they considered running it again themselves. But they also knew the Groenigs liked Whidbey Island and might just want to get back into the business. The Groenigs said yes.This is an opportunity that just kind of happened, Sally Groenig says. Bob called and said, 'Do you want to buy a Dairy Queen?' The Groenigs moved to Oak Harbor and bought a home here in October. Since then they've been revamping the restaurant's landscaping a bit (relocating the main sign, tearing out the old playground equipment) and totally cleaning and remodeling the inside.Some exterior improvements will have to wait until spring, such as painting the building, restriping the parking lot and putting in a new playground.In the meantime, the Groenigs are training staff (the art of the ice cream curl is a popular study topic) and taking care of last-minute details as they get ready for the Monday opening.The key is in how it's run, says Sally. We believe in quality food and fast, friendly service in a clean, wholesome environment.-----------------Big pictureWhat: Oak Harbor Dairy QueenWhere: 1248 SW Barlow St.Phone: 679-8989The Oak Harbor Dairy Queen is part of International Dairy Queen, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. There are are more than 5,790 Dairy Queen franchise businesses in the United States, according to the corporate Web site. "

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