By Roz Kohls
The past 25 years have been a sweet treat for Karen Aho of Cokato. She has been working at the Dairy Queen in Cokato in “a six-month job that turned into 25 years,” she said Tuesday.
Aho is manager now, along with Christie Halonen of Cokato.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” Aho said.
She especially enjoyed working with the teenagers, both customers and employees. “They’re fascinating, watching them grow and having families of their own.” Aho added.
Aho and her husband, Tom, have a big family, with 15 children. Ten are married now, but five still live at home. They are Todd, 22; Josh, 18; Brian, 15; Seth, 13; and Erin, 11.
Despite having a large family, the three owners who have operated the Dairy Queen at 230 Highway 12, Cokato, all cooperated in making her work schedule wrap around her family life, she said.
Aho originally is from East Bethel. She met her husband, who lived on a dairy farm northwest of Cokato, at a church function. After they married, they continued to dairy farm, Aho said.
Then, one terrible day in 1992, the wiring in the house caused a fire, and their home was destroyed. “That’s when you realize how precious the community is,” Aho said.
Her husband went to work at Dura Supreme of Howard Lake, and Aho went to work at the Dairy Queen. Art Hagen had just opened the store then. Aho intended to work there temporarily.
“I loved the job. It’s a perfect job,” she said.
She was allowed to work at night for the first 20 years. Then, when the youngest of her children started school, she began working days, Aho said.
The most challenging part of the job is keeping all the machines running. There have been a lot of changes over the years, too. Dairy Queen added new products and new equipment. The store was remodeled, so the counter and dining area were more open, she said.
The most fun was getting a new product to serve customers, she said.
However, Aho’s personal favorite is the classic soft-serve ice cream in a cone, she said.
Blizzards seem to be the customers’ favorite. They order cookie dough and Reese’s Pieces Blizzards the most often, Aho added.
The Cokato Dairy Queen is considered a high-volume brazier, however, so it serves much more than ice cream treats, she said.
When Aho sums up the past 25 years, she feels “proud,” she concluded.