The Dairy Queen Index of economic development

dairyqueenTyler Woods commentary about Dairy Queen brought back a lot of memories for many of us.

In the old days in small towns, the first national chain outfits that showed up were the Dairy Queen and the A&W root beer stand. Your town had sort of “arrived” if you could rate a Dairy Queen.

As the town grew, other national franchises would show up, until after a while there’d be a McDonalds, and Kentucky Fried Chicken place, a Burger King, and so forth.

Somehow, even with the addition of all the other stores, the little old Dairy Queen would survive.

Then Dairy Queen started competing with its bigger brothers, and morphed from the little ice cream stand into a fast food restaurant in its own right. The little DQ’s started disappearing.

The folks who had the Tucson DQ franchise didn’t want to convert to the fancy new stores, and one by one we lost the traditional DQs. The DQ at 6th Street and 4th Avenue in Tucson is one of the last old time DQ’s around. Besides the one on 6th Street, I think there was another old time DQ on Irvington and another on Ft Lowell. But like a lot of experiences in Tucson, you don’t go by a place for a few months and suddenly its gone and replaced by something bright and shiny and new.

There is another one in Benson, but I haven’t been down that road in a while either and don’t know if it is still there.

Benson had the same problem of many small towns that the freeways bypassed…their downtown areas died while new businesses sprang up at the freeway interchanges.

For those who have driven back and forth to El Paso a lot over the years, we’ve seen the effect of freeway bypass on Benson, Wilcox, Lordsburg, and Deming.

So seeing the Benson Dairy Queen surviving year after year sort of gave one hope that all would not be lost. Almost like a spiritual experience to pull off the freeway, get over to the Benson DQ and have a dipped cone.

The old time DQ’s should be preserved as national historic sites.

A friend came up with something he called the “DQ Index”.

This was a measure of the economic health of a town.

Since the Dairy Queen was always the first national chain to show up in a town, that meant the town was growing.

But in a lot of places, the growth stopped, and the other fast food places closed down one by one until all that was left was the Dairy Queen.

If the Dairy Queen finally closed, the town was officially dead.

The number of Dairy Queens in a particular area is a sign of economic health.. If an area has 20 Dairy Queens it has a DQ Index of 20. If there are 40 DQ’s in a region, its DQ Index is 40.

Tracking the increase or decrease in the number of Dairy Queens over time is a very reliable indicator of improving or declining economic health of an area.


About Hugh Holub

Attorney and writer.
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