Dairy Queen owners 'treat' their employees like family
Local Dairy Queen owners know how to serve up tempting treats, but they also know how to "treat" their employees.
Gene and Jeri Fawbush were honored recently for 40 years of service and dedication during the Dairy Queen of the Pacific Northwest Convention in Portland.
And there to take their picture and celebrate with them was Julie Smith-Tittle, who has worked at the local restaurant for nearly as long.
"They took it over in January of 1979, and I came on board in November. I started out washing the floor, scrubbing toilets," Smith-Tittle laughs. "I didn't come to them as a manager."
Dairy Queen first opened in Prineville in January of 1952 on the corner of Third and Belknap streets in what is now the Sandwich Factory. Back then, it was a walk-up restaurant with no inside dining.
Eventually, the restaurant outgrew that space and moved a few blocks west to the corner of Northeast Belknap and Northeast Third streets. Gene and Jeri Fawbush purchased the business from Al Snyder in January of 1979 and remained in that location until 1990, when they constructed a new building on Third Street, where it is today.
These days, the owners are semi-retired and spend half of the year in Arizona to be close to their son, so Smith-Tittle is in charge. Jeri still keeps the books and is hands-on with the daily operations of the business. You can probably find her behind the counter or at the grill when they're in town.
The Prineville Dairy Queen Grill and Chill, known for its Five Buck Lunch and upside-down Blizzards, not only was honored for its longevity at the recent biennial convention, but it was named to the Pacific Northwest Golden Crown Elite list in 2017 and in 2018.
The store also received certificates for being in the top 10 in chicken sales and beef poundage sales in both 2017 and 2018.
Not only does Smith-Tittle manage the business, her brother, daughter, three grandsons and two granddaughters have also worked at the local DQ over the years. She says some of the employees end up feeling like family.
Samra Gannon, who often oversees the drive-thru, has worked there for nearly 10 years. She says her coworkers have become her closest friends, and Smith-Tittle has given her more and more responsibility over the years.
Gannon says the new Cupfection Royal Treats are gaining popularity. The Brownie and Oreo Cupfection features vanilla soft-serve ice cream, topped with a triple chocolate brownie, Oreo cookie pieces, chocolate sauce and marshmallow topping. The Summer Berry Cake Cupfection includes vanilla soft-serve ice cream, topped with layered vanilla cake, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and choco chunks, and whipped topping.
Dairy Queen has recently introduced for a limited time the chicken and waffles basket with fries and syrup.
"It's a strange combination, but it's a big hit," Smith-Tittle says.
The popcorn shrimp basket with fries and cocktail sauce is also going over well in Prineville. They sell it during Lent, and Smith-Tittle ordered 60 cases for this season.
They also offer the Wild Alaskan Fish Sandwich, which seems to be fairly popular as well.
And, of course, there's Dairy Queen's Blizzard. Each month, they feature a different variety. Lately, ice-cream lovers can order Cotton Candy, Oreo Cookie Jar, Brownie Dough, S'mores, Summer Berry Cheesecake or Caramel Cannonball.
But, without a doubt, the Five Buck Lunch is the most popular seller. Customers can order up a cheeseburger, barbecue bacon cheeseburger, chicken strip basket or a crispy chicken salad plus a drink and sundae for $5, and it doesn't have to be for lunch.
"We do the Five Buck Lunch all day long," Smith-Tittle says. "Gene and Jeri are trying to pass on savings."
They also give back to their community, supporting schools and local events as well as raising money for Children's Miracle Network.
Smith-Tittle says it's the owners' generosity and treatment of employees that has kept them going for 40 years.
"I cannot say enough good about Gene and Jeri, obviously, to only have one job in my life, but they treat their employees well," she says, adding that they appreciate their good employees. "Gene and Jeri treat me as if I was part of their family."
Prineville Dairy Queen Grill and Chill
Owners: Gene and Jeri Fawbush
Manager: Julie Smith-Tittle
Address: 600 NW Third St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
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