A personal letter from Pam Miller, in response to winning the 2017 DQ Miracle Maker Award
This year, DQ awarded Pam and I (John Miller) the 2017 Miracle Maker award. When they called and told us, we weren't even aware of what it was. DQ gives the award to franchise owners based on money raised for our local hospital through Children's Miracle Network and who are also committed to create the a positive experience for DQ Fans in and out of the restaurant. As new owners of the DQ Grill & Chill on Roosevelt Ave we have been blessed with amazing customers who love Blizzards and they love to give to kids. We couldn't have done any of it if it wasn't for Arlene, Pam's mom who started it all. Pam wrote this letter as an "acceptance speech" once she found out she won this award. She wasn't able to give this, and the letter stayed hidden on her desktop. She gave me permission to post it and share it with you all. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do.
This is a personal letter from Pam in response to winning this award from Dairy Queen Corporate...
In 1972 my mother, Arlene, accepted a position at our town’s new DQ location in York, PA. My mom was a hard worker with a big heart so it made perfect sense that one year later she would be promoted to manager, I was born shortly after that. I remember going to work with my mom on many summer days. I remember swiping maraschino cherries every time she turned her back and I remember asking every morning…"Is the ice cream ready yet”. When she finally gave me the ok, I would make my own small chocolate cone. I think I perfected the cone and the curl by the age of 5. The smell of the cherry misty slush powder still triggers my memory of this time.
When I was 9 years old, my mom picked me up from the babysitter’s and said we had to go to DQ. She had a surprise for me. A new product to try; I was so excited. The anticipation! It was a Blizzard. She pointed out the flavors. I chose M&M. My very first Blizzard. And I loved it.
In 1990 the owner of my mom’s DQ sent her to Hawaii to the DQ convention, where she met the owners of the 1300 Roosevelt Ave DQ location. It seemed that they were looking to sell and convinced my mom that she could own her very own DQ. After that vacation my mom returned home and started applying for loans at every bank she could think of in town. I remember her hand written letters telling the bank why she would be a great DQ owner and why they should trust her to repay a loan. Nine banks rejected her. She asked my uncle for a loan and he said no as well because he thought the Roosevelt Ave location was not a good one. She was at a dead end until my Aunt Ethel approached her. Ethel said she had given it some thought and some prayer and she wanted to loan my mom $110,000 to purchase the Roosevelt Ave DQ.
With that leap of faith from my great aunt Ethel in 1991, my mom, Arlene became the owner of the Roosevelt Ave DQ. I was 15 years old and she was scared to death.
She learned her new role as an owner and I learned how to be a leader,. I learned how to hire, how to schedule, how to train, how to clean, and most importantly, I learned how I could love my work and inspire others to do the same.
But it wasn’t always so picture perfect. I watched my mom work her fingers to the bone for this DQ. I watched her work late nights and early mornings. I watched her worry financially through the winters. I watched her stress when we lost key employees. I watched her struggle to find the balance between having a life and having a business and at some point in my late teenage years I said, “this life is not for me.” I worked faithfully at the DQ throughout my high school and college years and when I graduated college I got a really cool job. Two years later my mom lost all of her employees and I felt like I had to help her. I started working full time at the DQ in 2000 and I was so mad. I resented it and I felt trapped, but I loved my mom and I couldn’t leave her. I felt like she needed me and the DQ needed me. I knew the business and I was really really good at operations.
It turned out that my uncle who refused my mom a loan was very wrong. The location did very well. My mom paid me quite well for my role as a manager and my Aunt Ethel made out like a bandit.
In 2006 this guy named John came into the DQ as a customer. He had known me from church and had thought I was kind of stuck up so when he saw me slinging a heavy bag of dining room trash over my shoulder, he was surprised. He said he just had to get to know me. It seemed like the hard work that I resented, was the same hard work that made this guy notice me.
John and I married in 2007 and I told him that I had no intention of taking over the business. He remained quiet about this for a few years. I think he was just collecting data and discovering the DQ business from a distance.
In 2012 my mom relocated the DQ just a block away. It was a block that doubled our business and my husband said, I really think you need to reconsider this DQ business thing.
It was then that John and I together started looking at the business as owners. We opened our eyes to the possibilities; we saw what we could accomplish. He loves marketing and I love operations. And one area that intrigued us was CMN (Children's Miracle Network, Dairy Queen's official charity partner). What else could we do to raise money for local kids, how could we do it, when could we do it? We had both run in several 5K races so I suggested we do a 5K for CMN. I figured we could get 200 runners and raise about $2000. If you know my husband, then you know he is a go big or go home kind of guy. He began researching races and came to the conclusion that every participant would get a Blizzard at the end of the race. Now remember he’s marketing and I’m operations. So that’s a great idea, but how in the world am I going to make that happen? Several discussions later and many raised voices, we came to the conclusion…John would market the event and get people to sign up and I would give them a well thought out organized event.
And that’s just what we did. The first ever Blizzard Run took place on September 10, 2016. It will forever be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. 802 participants and $20,138.00 raised . We did it. And it didn’t stop there. We had our 2nd Blizzard Run a year later and raised $33,628 for CMN.
If you haven’t caught on yet, I love Dairy Queen. I don’t have to do this. I get to do this. I get to change the dining room trash and sling it over my should on the way to the dumpster. I get to work my fingers to the bone. I get to serve a product that brings families and communities together. I get to serve a product that gives hope. I get to make a difference in the lives of kids and families in my community through my work.
So I want to thank my mom for taking that job at the DQ in 1972. I want to thank those former owners for encouraging my mom to step out on her own. I want to thank my Aunt Ethel for taking a chance. I want to thank my husband for his vision and encouragement. I want to thank all of our customers, many of whom have become friends, for all their DQ visits over the years. And I want to thank DQ for being the kind of corporation that sees the importance of giving back and being connected to the life of our community.
On August 13, 2017 John and I had the awesome privilege of becoming 2nd generation DQ owners. We are honored to have the responsibility of upholding this awesome brand. May we all recognize this privilege we have as DQ franchisees. I look forward to a lifetime of learning the DQ business and being a strong supporter of Children’s Miracle Network.
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