Business

16th Street Dairy Queen still making treats the old-fashioned way

Owner now runs same neighborhood Dairy Queen she visited as a child

Karla Sibert makes ice cream treats at the Dairy Queen on 16th Street NE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Customers come from all around Cedar Rapids to support this Dairy Queen during this period of construction. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Karla Sibert makes ice cream treats at the Dairy Queen on 16th Street NE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Customers come from all around Cedar Rapids to support this Dairy Queen during this period of construction. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Karla Sibert has fond memories of getting ice cream with her father when she was young.

Her dad worked a factory job just down the road from the 16th Street Dairy Queen in northeast Cedar Rapids. When he was on his evening break, she and other family members would meet him for ice cream.

Today, Sibert’s memories are coming full circle as she now is the owner of that very Dairy Queen.

Sibert bought the business in April 2017 and is the fourth owner of the store that opened in 1955.

“This is one of the very last walk-up, neighborhood Dairy Queens. I love history, and it was a big thing for me to be able to become the owner,” she said.

An element that she said sets this Dairy Queen apart is its traditional approach to treat making and flavors.

“We make our treats the old-fashioned way. And we do actually still serve old-fashioned soda. Quite a few people order that to this day,” Sibert said.

Sibert and her staff of nine part-time employees work together on a daily basis. She said she believes in cross-training all her employees. “It’s important for them to learn every aspect of the business. That’s how I learned.

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“The most enjoyable part of this is my employees that work here. Some of them grew up in this area and know so many customers. And they give you a different perspective on things.”

As owner, Sibert is very hands-on — she works the window and takes out the trash.

“I even do the shoveling in the winter months when we aren’t open. I’m here almost every day for 10-hour days. There’s a different challenge every day and I enjoy that, it’s my disposition.”

This season — the store is open about nine months of the year — is off to a particularly challenging start as road construction has closed off the street just a block away. Sibert has advocated at city Council meetings for signs to help redirect traffic.

“This is a main thoroughfare from the interstate to First Avenue,” she said. “The week they closed the street my sales dropped 40 percent.”

A social media push was started to support the business.

“I don’t even know the people who created the initial Facebook post, but now something like 75 percent of customers mention they saw it.”

Even with the challenges, Sibert said she is excited about growing her business. Perhaps most exciting is the “icicle tricycle” — with its freezer compartment — that she purchased last summer.

“It has a vintage feel, and we are excited to get it rolling and use it to sell ice cream treats, ” she said.

Sibert was excited about the opportunity to purchase this neighborhood Dairy Queen as she’d tried to purchase another store nearly two decades go.

“Everything just fell into place this time,” she recalled.

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At a glance

• Owner: Karla Sibert

• Company: Dairy Queen #4

• Address: 501 16th St. NE, Cedar Rapids

• Phone: (319) 365-0680

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