A blizzard of obstacles; Dairy Queen working out solutions amidst COVID-19

Mother’s Day was a busier than normal for Abington’s Dairy Queen.  However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ice cream store has been anything but been normal for the Hill family who has owned the Abington location for three generations over the last 63 years. 

“This weekend was tough – passing cakes out the drive-thru window wasn’t the easiest,” Sharon Hill said with a laugh. “We could not keep up with the cake orders, we were so busy.”

The Hill family has been hard at work doing everything they can to overcome obstacles in order to stay open, while keeping employees and the community safe.

In early April, the Board of Health asked Dairy Queen to close their walk-up windows after receiving complaints about crowds congregating in the parking lot and not adhering to social distancing protocols. The drive-thru, however, was allowed to remain open.  

“Thank goodness we have the drive-thru,” said Hill. 

“The Board of Health said windows had to be closed, so we closed them.  People were social distancing in line, but once they left the windows and the drive-thru, they were parking their cars, getting out, and standing around and we can’t control that.

“So it’s been a big learning curve on how to do all of our business through just the drive-thru. I think we’re managing it well.”

Abington Board of Health Public Health Director Marty Golightly, couldn’t agree more.

“I have nothing but good things to say: great owners, great people, and they are responsive and quick,” said Golightly.

“When I asked them to close to the windows because there was just too many people, there were no issues.”

However once the windows were closed, the drive-thru became a challenge, especially on the warmer weather evenings, as traffic started to build heavily on Centre Avenue and Plymouth Street.

“We started getting really nervous because at night the line was going down the street, blocking the intersection,” explained Hill.

 “So we decided to be proactive and get a police detail from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., every day, until we can open our windows. The police have been fabulous.

The store’s Rt. 123 entrance has temporarily been closed. All customers need to enter through the Rt. 58 entrance.

“We’ve been learning as we go to see what works best and the officers have been so helpful,” she said.

“One of the officers got the cars in the parking lot with three lanes and then they would weave, which is amazing.  I’m thrilled that we have the option and that the police are sending people. I don’t think we’ll need it once the windows are open. It will hopefully go back to normal.”

In addition to the police detail, there are also signs posted along the building asking customers to enjoy their frozen treat at home, in hopes of relieving the congestion. 

Hill gave a lot of credit to the business’ dedicated employees.

“Our employees are everything to us.  We could not do this without them,” said Hill, adding that each employee has also received a $2 raise increase.

“We are so blessed and most of our employees have stayed for years and years. Our employees are so important to us and we are so blessed with what we have.”

From the beginning the of the pandemic, Hill said they’ve strived to do the right thing, starting with employees taking their temperature before reporting to work, and allowing no more than ten people to work during the busier times.

“It’s hard to run the drive-thru only.   We have one person taking the money, another person passing it out, five people getting the product and putting it in lines, and one person cleaning the entire time. They are wearing their masks and not complaining. We trying to be safe for our employees and our customers.”

“The people that work there are great and they are doing a great job at keeping everything nice and clean,” added Golightly.

The Hill family said they fortunate that Dairy Queen in Abington could remain open during the pandemic.  The family also owns another store in Brockton which was forced to close due to not having a drive-thru and a smaller parking lot. 

“Every day is a new day and we’re trying to roll with the punches,” said Hill.

“People see the name Dairy Queen and think it’s a big franchise, but it’s not.  We are a family-owned, mom-and-pop organization that’s been in town for 63 years and we want to continue to being in town.

“We thank our customers for being loyal and lines don’t lie; there is a need for it. Kids and families can come and get an ice cream and feel like there’s a little normalcy.” 

Written by Michele Christian

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