May 7, 2007

Cokato couple sell Dairy Queen Brazier, final day May 31

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

George and Joani Duggan of the Dairy Queen Brazier in Cokato will end their career as owner operators of the restaurant May 31. At the same time, they will start a new lifestyle in the alumnus community of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Their daughter, Katie, is a graduate of the university. That is how the Duggans became interested in the alumni community there. Joani wants to get a job in the university’s book store, a fabulous cathedral-style building, George said.

The Duggans would have stayed two more years in Cokato, but they were approached by three different buyers for the Dairy Queen.

“The timing was close enough to accept an offer,” George said.

The Duggans thought if they delayed, they wouldn’t have had such a choice of desirable offers, he said.

The restaurant was purchased by Josh Haukos of Delano. Haukos has been the owner operator of the Delano Dairy Queen for the past six years, and in the Dairy Queen business for 17 years, Haukos said.

Karen Aho of Cokato will continue as general manager at the Dairy Queen in Cokato. She has worked there for more than 23 years, George said.

The Duggans bought the Cokato Dairy Queen in January 1986 from Art and Rose Hagen. George recalled that he and Joani, a former surgical nurse, had also looked at the Dairy Queen in Blaine, but preferred the decor of the Cokato restaurant, he said.

He had a sanitation business in Golden Valley before 1986. It had grown too big for one person to manage. He would have had to expand or get out. George and Joani also are people-oriented, so they wanted a business in which they could enjoy the company of other people on a daily basis, George said.

It was an added benefit to find out how friendly and welcoming the people of Dassel Cokato were.

“I thought it had terrific people,” George said.

Cokato was open and receptive to him, even though sometimes he comes across as brash, he said. George talks fast, walks fast and eats fast, he joked.

George loved joshing with the customers and employees, and being in the friendly environment.

George believes it helped him to have a “high metabolism.” The restaurant had three tills, and people coming into the place from every direction. The only times the fast-food restaurant was closed were Christmas and Thanksgiving. Otherwise it is a 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. operation.

The duration, or year-round, 24-hour, seven days a week, quality of the restaurant was the most challenging part of the job, George said.

George is diabetic, also. To keep up his strength, he works out on a treadmill every day, and is careful about what he eats. He can’t enjoy the same Blizzards and Royal Treats his customers eat, but he does like banana and ice cream combinations, he said.

George also isn’t afraid to try new things. He was in the Army medical corp in Fort Dix, N.J., graduated from Mankato State University with a degree in education in 1968, and taught junior high school students in Okeechobee, Fla.; El Paso, Texas; St. Cloud, and the Twin Cities.

In addition, George is actively involved in the Cokato American Legion and Knights of Columbus.

The Duggans have three children. Their son, Matt, is deployed in Iraq until August. Their son, Tony, is in Eden Prairie, and daughter, Katie is in New York City at Ernst & Young Accounting.

By retiring to Notre Dame’s alumnus community in South Bend, which is 95 miles from Chicago, George hopes to be able to slow down, and yet still be involved in a people-oriented industry, he said.

Alumnus communities of retiring Baby Boomers, like the one in South Bend, are popping up all over the country, he added.

Haukos also is looking forward to the future. He said the Cokato Dairy Queen has a good reputation, and expects it to have a high volume of sales.

George agreed that the restaurant’s location at 230 Cokato St. W., is attractive. It is between two big retailers, The Marketplace, and the General Dollar Store, and near Centra Sota Co-op, a major industry in Cokato, he said.

Haukos also said he likes how the two restaurants are only about 20 minutes apart. Haukos will be putting in new menu boards and more outdoor seating, and possibly paint the exterior of the restaurant next year, he said.

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