When driving through Chatfield this winter, you may see an unusual sight — a plowed parking lot and cars in the drive through of Dairy Queen. That’s because, for the first time in years, the Chatfield Dairy Queen is now open year round.
When Yoel and Michelle Topel took ownership of the franchise located just off of Highway 52 on March 15 last year, they knew they wanted to make a few changes. One of the most notable changes they made was adjusting the hours of the store to year round instead of seasonal. In the past, Dairy Queen would close around the end of October and wouldn’t open again until March — a practice standard with Dairy Queen stores in colder climates. When asked about his decision to keep the store open, Yoel says he saw the need in the community, “There was a demand for quick food options in Chatfield, especially during the winter months.” And while the town is still getting used to being able to get cold treats in the winter, sales are starting to look up and the community support continues to grow. “The sales in November and December weren’t as high as I was expecting,” Yoel says between taking drive-through orders, “but the January sales are exactly where I wanted them to be.”
Customers of the Chatfield Dairy Queen may notice some other changes as well. “We added some soup and sandwiches that weren’t offered before,” Yoel says. “I also changed the burger sizes.” Another goal of the Topels is to add the ability for online ordering to their store. “Everyone is using online ordering these days,” Yoel says, “it would be great for us to participate in it too, just to give customers another way to get their order.” And from what Yoel says, it sounds like incorporating an online ordering system isn’t too far off, “Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Yoel and Michelle aren’t new to frozen treats, they used to own a Cold Stone Creamery franchise in Rochester until returning it back to the corporation after they closed in 2020. “We moved to Minnesota around five years ago,” Yoel says, which is when he took over operations of Cold Stone Creamery. The Topel’s originate from Venezuela and dream of sharing food from the South American country with the community at some point. While Dairy Queen franchises need to adhere to frozen treat standards, franchise owners have more say when it comes to the hot food they serve. And while the Topels would love to incorporate some of their Venezuelan heritage into the food they serve at Dairy Queen, the current layout of the restaurant doesn’t have the operational space to add Venezuelan food to the menu.
In fact, looking for a place to start a Venezuelan restaurant is what led Yoel and Michelle to the Chatfield Dairy Queen in the first place. After closing his location of Cold Stone Creamery, Yoel began looking for restaurant opportunities in Rochester where he could serve food from his home country. That’s when the Topel’s came across the sale ad for Chatfield’s Dairy Queen location. Yoel says that his decision to purchase the Dairy Queen came because of the location and town it’s in. “It’s a nice community,” he says, “the support for ‘outside’ owners has been great.”
Yoel and Michelle are currently commuting from Rochester to Chatfield every day, but hope to settle down in Chatfield when the time is right. “We plan on staying in the area long term,” Yoel says, “I really like the community.”
So far, their experience with Chatfield and its Dairy Queen have been great. However, they have the same struggles as other businesses do in that finding staff has been difficult. So far they’ve managed the winter months with their current staff, but as the weather warms up and schools are out for the summer — Yoel knows he will need to hire more people. He expects to start the job posting and hiring process in the next couple of months.
Until then, you can visit Yoel, Michelle and the rest of the Dairy Queen staff at 311 Main St. N. in Chatfield. They are open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.