Dairy Queen owner sells after 33 years

Published 7:56 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

These are the rules for eating at Brookhaven’s Dairy Queen: Tear off a piece of Texas toast. Wrap it, gingerly, around the long end of a chicken finger. Submerge the combination into the provided styrofoam cup of white gravy, extracting it just before sogginess begins to set in. Eat, and be merry.

Brookhaven folks have been following that recipe since before Dairy Queen was Dairy Queen — it started out as Stark’s — and they’ll be able to keep it up in the future, even though the store’s original owners have sold the business.

“I’m old — I’ll be 76 this year, and I’ve been doing this 33 years without a vacation until just recently,” said Frances Kyle. “It was just time. Time to move on.”

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Kyle recently sold ownership of the Brookhaven DQ and retired from the restaurant business after managing, cooking and serving customers in the store since 1985, when she and her husband — the late Dan Kyle — first moved to Brookhaven to run the business. The store will continue on as usual, only without the little old lady working furiously behind the counter.

“It’s just been wonderful, wonderful,” Kyle said. “We were all family down there.”

Kyle was born in Virginia and grew up across the globe in a military family — though one of her forebears, Thomas Jefferson Gill, was the mayor of Bogue Chitto and is buried there. Dan was from St. Louis, but he worked across the South all his life.

The Kyles eventually came to manage 11 DQ restaurants across Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, and Dan performed inspections on the Brookhaven Stark’s. He liked Brookhaven and liked the store, wanted it, Frances said, and when it finally came up for sale they bought the store and moved to town.

When Brookhaven’s original DQ — which stood where Mike Whatley Honda is now — burned down in 1993, the Kyles were able to convert their restaurant from Stark’s to DQ. After Dan passed away in 2006, their daughter, Catherine Miller, stepped up to help manage the business.

Kyle said her DQ was, at one point, the No. 2 location in all of Louisiana and Mississippi, and the store has always run between 20 and 30 employees to keep up with demand. It’s not uncommon now to see Brookhavenites blocking traffic on Brookway Boulevard while they wait for a spot in the store’s drive-through, and Kyle’s offer of free ice cream sundaes for youth sports teams has kept the place packed on spring and fall nights.

“Win or lose. We loved doing it,” Kyle said. “The kids are our future customers, so we wanted the kids to come in and want to come back.”

Kyle thanked all the people who helped her family business along — Bill Boerner, the corporate attorney; Lynn Berch, the financial advisor; Betty Dixon, the landlord.

And hungry Brookhavenites.

“We’ve loved everybody in Brookhaven, and I think they’ve loved us,” Kyle said. “I’m really gonna miss it.”