If you live in the area, it is quite possible that you have visited at least one of the Dairy Queens in Pine River, Pequot Lakes or Nisswa.
What you may not know is that all three are owned by the same family. Sisters Lisa Kaneski and Kathy Martin together own and run these DQs, a heritage passed on to them by their parents.
Their parents, Jerome and Phyllis Taylor, bought the Pine River DQ in 1971, and the Taylor family moved to the area. Lisa was 1, and Kathy hadn’t been born yet. Once they were a little older, Lisa and Kathy soon became a part of the business.
Lisa started working at the Pine River DQ as a seventh-grader. Soon there was another place for the girls to work when their parents purchased the second store in Nisswa in the late 1980s.
Both sisters worked in the stores throughout high school. When they went off to college at St. Cloud State University, Kathy came home on the weekends to work while Lisa waitressed in St. Cloud.
Lisa did not immediately return to the DQ business after her college graduation. She graduated from St. Cloud State with a degree in business, and she worked for Hormel Foods for 13 years. During this time she lived in various locations around the country and married her husband, Sean, a Brainerd native.
Meanwhile, Kathy graduated with a degree in mass communications-advertising and got a job with the corporate office of Dairy Queen for five years. Her experience with the local DQs paid off as she traveled around the country opening new stores and training staff.
Kathy met her husband, Phil, who was from the area, and she moved back in 2002 and became the manager at the Pine River Dairy Queen.
Eventually, she ended up essentially running the Pine River and Nisswa DQs. After a few years, their father, Jerome, was looking to shift into retirement.
Around that same time, Lisa and her family were getting overwhelmed with the travel and busyness of life.
“We were looking to reconfigure our life a little bit,” Lisa said.
“Kathy was at that point, looking to buy him out, but it is a lot to have two Dairy Queens. At that point I’m like, ‘Would you want a business partner, Kathy?’” Lisa said.
So, in 2007, Lisa and Kathy took over the Pine River and Nisswa Dairy Queens.
The transition to living and working in the lakes area has been enjoyable for Lisa. Both sisters enjoy the opportunity for outdoor activities in the area. Kathy frequents the Paul Bunyan Trail with her family while Lisa and her family particularly enjoy the lakes. While out and about they often see their customers.
“I love the fact that I know 75 percent of the customers that come in our stores, and I love the fact that I can go out in the community and see those same people,” Kathy said.
“Our kids go to school and see our customers every day, and it’s a great way to live,” Lisa added.
Lisa and Sean have two children, Anja and Cole, both 11. Kathy and Phil have four children: Abi, 8; Jack, 6; Luke, 3; and Will, 2.
The Pequot Lakes DQ, which opened in 2010, has been the sisters’ new venture together.
“Pequot had always been an interest for my dad. He looked at building a Dairy Queen here several times,” Lisa said.
They explained that Jerome could not find a good, available location for a DQ. However, Kathy and Lisa stumbled across a possible spot.
“My husband had made a connection with the owners of the Oasis, and in the process of talking with them this opportunity came along,” Lisa said.
Although all three stores are similar, the sisters explained that there are definite differences between each DQ.
“Each store has its own personality and almost its own customer base,” Kathy said.
“It’s funny how the Pine River store can be dead on a certain time of the day and Pequot Lakes can be turning upside down, crazy busy at that exact same time of day,” she added.
Currently, Kathy runs the Pine River and Nisswa stores while Lisa runs the Pequot Lakes DQ and does bookkeeping for the businesses.
Lisa described the environment at their DQs.
“It’s fun, it’s fast-paced and people are usually in a pretty good mood when they come to Dairy Queen, and that’s fun,” she said.