Dairy Queen’s neon sign lights up along U.S. Route 51 Saturday, March 13, 2021 in Carbondale Ill. (Chris Bishop | @quippedmediallc)
Dairy Queen’s neon sign lights up along U.S. Route 51 Saturday, March 13, 2021 in Carbondale Ill.

Chris Bishop | @quippedmediallc

Iconic Dairy Queen loses franchise; operator optimistic about site’s future

May 27, 2023

The infamous Dairy Queen located in downtown Carbondale has lost its business after more than 70 years running and serving thousands of customers soft serve ice cream and other sweet delights.

Operator Mark Waicukauski, said he would not back down when Dairy Queen insisted he change the store’s menu and make other changes the corporation wanted.

“Corporate Dairy Queen, you know, had some things for us to do, we did not get them done. And so they decided it was best to take our franchise away,” he said.


Dairy Queen sent the Daily Egyptian a statement saying: “We worked with the franchise owners of the Carbondale location to address operational issues over a period of time and, when the restaurant did not meet the necessary requirements, we made the difficult decision to close the restaurant.”

The company ordered all branded merchandise, including the iconic retro Dairy Queen sign, removed from the business. 

“I knew it was going to happen, I knew there was going to be a divorce sooner or later with the way things are going with Dairy Queen… I just didn’t expect it this quick,” Waicukauski said.

Fighting between corporate rules and wanting to keep things the way they’ve always been is a tough struggle for any business owner, especially one who has not only been running the place for so long, but grew up in the place as a kid.

“Their corporate things these days are hard, and this is just a street ice cream place and those just don’t work together… their menu is made for “grill and chill” and not just for straight ice cream,” Waicukauski says.

Waicukauski said he is determined to open the store back up as an independent ice cream shop and try his best to keep things the same as they were over the years, remaining a timeless classic in a modern town that continues to change as the years go by. The nostalgia and memories associated with the store are important not just to Waicukauski, but many locals who grew up going to the iconic DQ.

The shop has stayed the same ever since it opened in 1952, serving customers who sat on the sidewalk and against the wall for generations. 


“I’ve sat on that wall eating Dairy Queen with my childhood friends, then with my children, then with my grandchildren,” Jill Oliver said in a Facebook comment.

Several people in this small town are able to come together and share just how much of an impact this little shop has made over the years. 

“I sat a lot of hours on that little wall, people watching and eating my chocolate ice cream… this DQ had been a Carbondale landmark, I grew up going to this Dairy Queen all my life,” Cindy Lannom Carter said in a Facebook comment.

Waicukauski said, “For the last 55 years, I’ve been down here seeing everything that’s happened in downtown Carbondale. I’ve been here for every Halloween, every homecoming, all the streaking and everything down here so I’ve seen it all.”

The memories of this small Dairy Queen are what drives Waicukauski to be so committed to re-open once again under a new name as an independent shop. 

“I just hope people keep their eyes open and be ready to come out and support me when we open back up, we hope to keep the same feel that we’ve had here for the last 70 years,” he said.. 

Reporter and photographer Mo Collar can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram @m0.alexander. 


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    Tony WilliamsJun 1, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    So another familiar landmark leaves the center of Carbondale making it look more like Cairo’s main street. I’m not surprised that corporate decision has resulted in this rather than listening to any concerns from the local community and franchise owner. Sounds very much like SIUC ignoring student demands for a Fall break to relieve mental pressure.

  • T

    TerryMay 27, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    Sad to see the DQ go, too many good memories. look forward to the new restaurant that takes it’s place

  • G

    Gary BookMay 27, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    Carbondale DQ was an important part of my SIU experience. Great memories of fudge banana supremes and root beer floats. Thanks for being there as a place to unwind after a tough test. SIU ‘70.