Keeping It Cool
Local Dairy Queen GM Talks Success & Community Focus of Hendricks County Locations
Photographer / Amy Payne
Dairy Queen is a staple in any Midwest town, and Jill Choate is proud to be the General Manager of three of them: Avon, Plainfield and Clermont.
Her background hasn’t always been in the sweets business. She worked in accounting for more than 30 years. When the payroll company she was working for closed, Mick Linn approached her about working for him. Linn owns three westside stores.
That was more than 13 years ago and Choate plans to sit it through to retirement.
“I do it all,” Choate says. “I do payroll, scheduling, maintenance, accounting, end of the year reporting, taxes, grocery shopping, hiring, and marketing.”
She tries hard to hit every single store at least every other day, and sometimes daily, to keep up with her staff and work.
She’ll say she can’t do it without good help though, and Avon store manager David Lucas is about as helpful as they come.
At 74 years young, Lucas has a food industry background and loves his job managing the store. He doesn’t even mind the 45-minute commute from the southeast side.
“I don’t mind the drive for three reasons,” Lucas says. “One, I love my job. Two, I love my customers. And three, I love working with young kids.”
Choate says that they hire mostly teenagers for their staff. Lucas enjoys filling the role of job mentor to the kids.
“Working here in a fast food environment is the best experience for a child,” Lucas adds. “It teaches social skills and work skills. It’s a challenge to get young kids to learn to pay attention to details and duties.”
Choate vouches for Lucas, saying he often will recognize regulars when he sees their car pull in and have their order ready before they even get to the window.
“He really is what makes this particular store so great,” Choate says. “Customers come first with David. He wants to make people happy.”
Lucas’s attention to staff and detail have paid off in recent years. The Avon store received the PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in Delivering Excellence) award two years in a row from Dairy Queen’s corporate office. This award signifies that the Avon store has achieved a high level of cleanliness and food safety. Once a year, there is a PRIDE assessment that occurs on an unannounced day and time, which includes a surprise inspection.
“We take great pride in that,” Choate says. “I really think it’s because of our management and staff. They really go above and beyond to do everything they need to do to keep the store clean.”
Lucas agrees. His system is to give each kid a certain responsibility within the store. One might be in charge of keeping the ceilings clean and the lights working, for example.
“It’s really a combination of working together and being a good team,” Lucas says. “I think if you give every employee a little bit of responsibility, then they take more pride in their work.”
The store employs mostly teens from Avon, Danville, Plainfield and Ben Davis. They all get along together, and having students from different districts helps to space out times they ask off, such as prom and graduation.
“I love being able to interact with the community,” Choate says. “I am from the east side of Indianapolis, and I love meeting the regulars here.”
Ironically enough, she doesn’t have a favorite treat to enjoy because she’s lactose intolerant, though she’ll sometimes indulge in a cherry freeze. Even Lucas doesn’t indulge much in the frozen treats.
“I bet I haven’t even had a full blizzard since I’ve worked here,” Lucas says, laughing.
Choate is also proud of the impact Dairy Queen has on the local community. In addition to regular spirit nights that benefit different groups and schools, Dairy Queen regularly donates to many charities in Hendricks County, including Project A.N.G.E.L , American Legion and all the local schools. The Avon location was even a drop-off center one time for a food pantry.
While the store contributes plenty to the community, it’s also a kind of local watering hole for families, who swing in for dessert after sports practices, back-to-school nights,] or just to be with friends and family. Most summer evenings, the patio is filled with patrons lining up for their favorite frozen treat.
Choate wants the community to know that the new fall blizzard lineup will be revealed soon. She also emphasizes the Avon location does do ice cream cakes, even though it’s just a drive-up store. Cakes can be ordered online.
She prides herself in providing a place people come to socialize and be happy.
“We’re very fortunate in this store,” Choate says. “We rarely have upset customers. Most of them know if they have a problem, they can come talk to us and we’ll fix it.”
Dairy Queen is located at 7574 Beechwood Centre in Avon. For more information, give them a call at 317-272-4667.