A local family-owned business is celebrating fifty years of providing the Red Deer community with hot eats, cool treats and plenty of support along the way.
The Hamill family started with one Dairy Queen location in downtown Red Deer, near the hospital. Three more locations in North Hill, Deer Park and south Red Deer, were purchased or built in 1978, 1991 and 2004 respectively.
Rob Hamill says it all started when his dad fell in love with a Dairy Queen in Estevan, Saskatchewan and wished to work indoors.
From there, Gordon Hamill made progress moving west with his ownership of Dairy Queen locations until his first in Red Deer was purchased in 1967 as a walk-up Dairy Queen.
The current building on the corner of 43 street and Gaetz Avenue was built in 1972 and has been a Red Deer staple ever since.
Rob says some of the best memories in the 50 years of ownership have included mostly staff and events.
“It’s always a kick now to have staff come back in. I’m getting kids now of former staff coming in saying ‘my mom said I should come work for you guys.’”
Gordon and his wife Heather had great pride in their work in the community and instilled in their children the importance of community engagement.
“It was drilled into me from a young age that if you become part of the community and help take care of it, they will take care of you,” Rob explains. “Yes we give lots back to the community, but the community has done a whole lot for us and allowed us to stay in business for that long doing something that we love to do.”
One of the most well-known methods of giving back to the community by Dairy Queen is their Miracle Treat Day, coming up on August 10th, during which funds are raised for the Children’s Miracle Network. Money raised locally is split between the Calgary and Edmonton children’s hospital locations, because Rob said kids in Red Deer are sent both ways depending on their ailments or the availability of beds.
“We also have a big involvement in the Red Deer hospital. We have a room, it was the first one they ever sold, in the pediatric ward. We also supply cake so the nurses know if there’s a child up there having a birthday they come down here and get one.”
Rob said other ways they stay connected with the community include their contributions to reading programs over the years as well as engagement with sporting teams and sponsoring scholarships at the high school level.
While Rob has taken a step back from spending so many hours working, just as his dad did years ago, his children, Drew, Justine and Victoria, have stepped up to take on the challenge. Drew and Justine are continuing on in the family business, while Victoria plans to become a school teacher. Rob said there’s a lot of pride seeing the family business continues on to the third generation.
Rob’s brother Dean owns and operates the North location and Rob said it’s been great to keep it all in the family as his father’s legacy.
Currently, the four Dairy Queen locations owned by the Hamills employ nearly 170 people. Rob said they do put focus on employing youth who may just be getting their foot in the door.
“It’s great when you see a kid who comes in very shy and quiet and see them come out of their shell and be able to stand there at the counter and be terrified the first couple times, but after a few months they’re talking away.”
Rob said the business is a daily challenge but that it’s good fun and a great way to meet new people in the City of Red Deer.
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