Cravings for hot fudge sundaes spur historic Dairy QueenThe Lake Nebagamon Dairy Queen is said to be the oldest DQ in the state of Wisconsin and one lady’s craving for DQ hot fudge sundaes is responsible for its establishment overlooking the village’s public beach.
By: For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
The Lake Nebagamon Dairy Queen is said to be the oldest DQ in the state of Wisconsin and one lady’s craving for DQ hot fudge sundaes is responsible for its establishment overlooking the village’s public beach.
Now, as the historical sweet spot in downtown Lake Nebagamon is celebrating its 60th anniversary, it will also be participating Dairy Queen’s “Miracle Treat Day,” a special event to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Dairy Queens across the United States and Canada offer a DQ Blizzard special July 26 and for every Blizzard sold that day, $1 is donated to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“Kids are the greatest customers at every DQ, so it is really a privilege to be able to do something special like this that has a direct benefit for children,” said Bonnie Nepstad, owner of the Lake Nebagamon and Solon Springs DQs. Both DQs observe the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals event.
The Lake Nebagamon DQ, located right across from the village’s public beach and its historic auditorium, has been a favorite destination for residents and visitors to the village since 1952.
Nepstad, owner of the Lake Nebagamon DQ since 1996, recounted a visit she had with the original owner, Evelyn Kangas Johnson, who grew up in Lake Nebagamon.
“Evelyn and her husband Eric were living near Chicago area when she became addicted to DQ hot fudge sundaes,” she said. “In 1950 Evelyn and Eric moved back to Lake Nebagamon to care for her ailing mother.”
Her mother, Anna Knoll Kangas, was the daughter of Lake Nebagamon pioneers Joseph and Catherine Knoll, who settled in the village in 1898.
“Evelyn missed those hot fudge sundaes so much she and Eric decided to apply for a franchise and build the ‘sweet treats’ business on their property across the street from the popular Lake Nebagamon public beach and its historic auditorium,” Nepstad said. “The new DQ opened for business in spring 1952, but its menu was a lot simpler than today’s. In those days, the menu included cones, sundaes and milkshakes. The famous DQ ‘hot treats’ weren’t added until many years later.
“Evelyn had a bad knee and she told me she called it her ‘Dilly Bar’ knee because she had to step back and forth to make that round DQ specialty,” Kangas said. “Even after she went to live at the Middle River Health Facility, Evelyn was still able to keep up with her DQ appetite. It was too difficult to bring her hot fudge sundaes, but friends brought her ‘Buster Bars’ regularly.”
Nepstad bought the DQ in 1996.
“I was working for St. Louis County at the time, but I had always wanted my own business and every week I would read for sale ads in the Sunday Duluth (News) Tribune. I never felt I would be able to do it, but one week I saw an ad for the DQ and decided to check it,” she said. “I jumped on a motorcycle and went out to see it for myself. I looked it over and fell in love with it. Then I walked down to the beach and people smiled at me!” Those smiling faces on the beach convinced Nepstad that she wanted to buy the DQ and two days later she made her dream come true.
While the menu has changed at the DQ, the building itself has remained pretty much the same since it opened 60 years ago. When the national DQ organization decided to change the appearance of its franchisee buildings, it recognized the historic significance of the Lake Nebagamon establishment and decided it should remain the same.
That was good news to Nepstad and all of the DQ’s loyal customers. When Camp Nebagamon for Boys alumnae were asked recently to recall some of their favorite activities at camp, scores of them wrote fondly about their weekly trips to DQ. Other visitors who came to Lake Nebagamon for its popular teen dances or the annual concert by the Duquesne University Tamburitzans also count on being able to visit the DQ during intermissions. Each year when the “Tammies” return, they head straight for DQ.
A few years ago, Nepstad decided to buy the Solon Springs DQ.
“I had looked at it several times and I liked its location on a busy highway in the business district,” she said. Every year as early March approaches, Nepstad begins preparing to get both DQs ready for their May openings.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin residents and visitors wait anxiously for what Evelyn Johnson craved in 1952, hot fudge sundaes and “Dilly” and “Buster” bars.
“When the Dairy Queen’s open, we know spring has arrived and we are ready for those “Sweet Treats & Hot Eats,” a neighbor said.