There are more than 4,000 Dairy Queens in the U.S. China has nearly 600. But out of all those stores, none is on the New York island of Manhattan. That changes next week when the Minnesota-based chain opens its first Manhattan location.
“I like to say a Blizzard is going to hit Manhattan, and really New York City as a whole,” says John Gainor, International Dairy Queen’s president and CEO.
The Blizzard is the chain’s signature milkshake. Gainor was in town taking a look at the soon-to-open, two-story Dairy Queen on 14th Street in Manhattan.
But this is a city with endless options for treats, from frozen yogurt to artisanal ice cream. Dairy Queen has stiff competition. Just blocks away I found a Mister Softee truck, a New York icon.
Ric Perez working inside didn’t feel the threat.
“People prefer Mister Softee. Yes, it is a New York thing,” he says.
Actually, Dairy Queen CEO Gainor says his competition is any fast food restaurant. McDonald’s has a McFlurry, and this Dairy Queen serves burgers.
And, for all the talk of chains like 7-Eleven and IHOP and now Dairy Queen invading Manhattan, this one seems different.
“New Yorkers have been very welcoming to our brand,” Gainor says.
That’s not just CEO-talk. Many New Yorkers aren’t from here. They have a soft spot for Dairy Queen’s soft-serve, growing up in Dairy Queen towns.
“When we were younger, we’d ride our bikes there and stuff like that,” says Adam Sansone, walking near Union Square.
More Dairy Queens are on the way for Manhattan and the other four boroughs.
They won’t necessarily replace mom and pop shops. Retail all over New York has been expanding since 1993, thanks to drastically reduced crime and a bigger population.
“A lot of companies probably feel that they can’t afford not to be here in New York City,” says MIchael Moynihan, chief economist at the New York City Economic Development Corporation.