Pam and Chris Mitchell pose for a photo while work continues on Dairy Queen before the restaurant opened in 1994. Photo Submitted

Sylvan Lake Dairy Queen celebrates 25 years in the community

Pam and Chris Mitchell opened the doors to the DQ Grill and Chill in October 1994

A lot can change over 25 years. Towns grow, children get older and technology evolves.

Over the last 25 years Pam and Chris Mitchell have seen many changes through their restaurant from their location at the corner of 50 Avenue and 46 Street.

One thing that has not changed has been their love of Dairy Queen.

“It just gets into your blood and never leaves,” Pam said about her 25 years owning the Sylvan Lake DQ Grill and Chill.

The husband and wife duo opened Sylvan Lake’s Dairy Queen 25 years ago, in October 1994.

They said they have seen the town grow from the small town of 4,800 people to one of the fastest growing communities in Alberta.

When they began construction on the building, they remember there being little surrounding the location.

“Back then there was nothing. There was no Panago, the library wasn’t there, the bowling alley and Pizza Hut weren’t there, there was nothing,” said Chris.

In 1994, when the restaurant opened, the only other businesses nearby were located in the Varsity Mall across the street.

In the early years of operation, the days were tough and Pam says there were a few where they questioned opening their own location.

However, the two balanced each other. Pam says she never felt the same way as her husband at the same time, and that probably is what helped them through the early years.

“We knew Sylvan Lake before we opened up here… We had a lot of memories of coming here. We also knew if we could make it through the summer months we could make it through the year,” said Pam.

For both Pam and Chris the decision to open their own location of the franchise was relatively easy, despite the two years it took to get things moving.

Both worked at Dairy Queen when they were teenagers, and then went on to co-own a location in Red Deer before opening their own in Sylvan Lake.

Working at Dairy Queen taught them both a lot, about work ethic and time management among others, and both felt it was important to pass that along to others.

“We will always hire kids to work here. It is important they get their first chance somewhere, and we are happy to give it to them,” said Pam.

Hiring kids, and working with their schedule is important to Chris, who took his inspiration for running the store from his former boss at Dairy Queen.

“I’ve always said I will work with their schedule. You have your whole life to work, but school and activities, you only get those once,” said Chris.

Chris and Pam are experiencing a second generation of employees at the DQ Grill and Chill.

They say many of the teenagers thy employed in the past have now grown up and their children have now taken up positions at their store.

Some former employees have even returned to work at Dairy Queen after years away.

One such employee is the current manager of the Sylvan Lake DQ Grill and Chill Crystal Miller.

“I had a great time hear when I was a kid. I got to meet a lot of people that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise,” Miller said.

After coming back to DQ, after starting a family of her own, Miller says it is still a lot of fun to work there.

“[Chris and Pam] treat us like family and they are really good about working around schedules. It is just a great place to work,” she said.

Looking back on 25 years of work, the Mitchells say they can’t believe how time has flown.

Both say one of the best parts of the job has been the customers over the years.

“We have just amazing customers,” said Chris.

To celebrate the quarter-of-a-century anniversary the Sylvan Lake DQ Grill and Chill has a week of fun planned.

From Oct. 21 until Oct. 25, the Sylvan Lake location will be hosting a scavenger hunt, and giving away 25 prizes, each one year of free blizzards.

Participants will find five clues in store and on their Facebook page each day throughout the week. Those who find the lucky silver spoon needs to bring it back to Dairy Queen to redeem their prize.

“It’s 25 years, we felt like we had to do something big for that, so there are 25 prizes,” said Pam.

In addition, a sale on the owners’ favourite treats will be held on Oct. 26 and 27.

On Oct. 26 double cheeseburgers will be half off, as Chris’s favourite treat, and the following day, on Oct. 27, Pam’s favourite treat the peanut buster parfait will be half off.

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