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Family selling Dairy Queen on North Fifth Street after decades of ownership

Carrie Miller and her daughter Jenny Liggett, are putting up the north end DQ near Gateway Drive for sale. Miller's parents bought the store in the 1970's. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Dairy Queen owners Jenny Liggett and her mom, Carrie Miller, dip Buster Bars at their north Grand Forks store recently. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

The Dairy Queen on North Fifth Street in Grand Forks is very much a family business.

In the four decades since Harold and Gladys Rosenberg bought the franchise, daughters, cousins, husbands have all called the ice cream shop their employer. Today, Carrie Miller, Harold and Gladys’ daughter, and her daughter/assistant manager Jenny Liggett run the store.

But now, Miller says it’s time to sell.

“It’s just that time,” Miller said. “And it’s a bittersweet feeling for myself and my family, because it has been in the family for 39 years.”

Miller, who co-owns the store with her husband Joel, declined to be much more specific about why they’re selling now.

“I know for a fact the biggest thing that I’m going to miss is my customers,” Miller said. “It’s my customers and my employees.”

In the family

Miller has been working at the store since she was 19, long enough to know what many customers will order when they walk in the door. And that’s long enough to have more than a few stories about opening up after a storm, serving the occasional bus full of kids and meeting customers outside of work.

“One time when I was out Christmas shopping … and two or three kids were with their parents and they pointed at me and said, ‘There’s the Dairy Queen lady!’” Miller said. “I felt like Santa Claus.”

The family also ran a Dairy Queen in downtown Grand Forks before selling it in 1979, Miller said. She and her husband worked together for some time after her parents bought it, but he doesn’t work there anymore.

Miller became an owner after her parents died a few years ago. And throughout the years, the little store near Gateway Drive has produced several family connections.

Miller’s brother, Leonard, met his wife while working there, she said. One of Miller’s daughters, Christy, worked there before moving away a few years ago, and Liggett began working when she was just 15, 17 years ago.

And now, Miller’s 16-year-old granddaughter works there.

A picture of Harold and Gladys Rosenberg still hangs in the back of the kitchen, offering a reminder of the two who started the Dairy Queen family tree almost 40 years ago.

“It’s been a family-type thing,” Miller said.  

‘The best job’

Throughout the years, Miller has seen some changes to the building itself, including the addition of a front lobby area, and in the products they sell, with new items like Orange Julius fruit smoothies.

One thing that hasn’t changed is how they make Dilly Bars in the store to give them a curl, or how they swirl the ice cream on a cone.

“I have employees who worked here 30 some years ago who come in with their kids, and I say ‘I bet you could still make a cone,’” Miller said.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Liggett added. “You learn the movement of ice cream, and when it’s soft you’ve got to manipulate it.”

While the store itself is only open from March until October, the work barely stops in between. Early in the year, Dairy Queen sends information for the next season’s products, and closing down takes about a month after the season.

“It is the best job a person can have,” Miller said. “People are coming in here because they want a treat. So I don’t see many grumpy people coming into Dairy Queen.”

“All you see are smiles.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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