Vienna community rallies to support local Dairy Queen franchise

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Courtesy of Vienna Patch

Sita Adhikari (center) receives check from Vienna Foodies fundraiser.

Rachel Schlueter, Opinion Editor

Nestled at the edge of the Vienna Plaza shopping center, the Vienna Dairy Queen is the epitome of friendly small-town business. 

Sita Adhikari has owned Dairy Queen since 2009. Customers are always greeted by Adhikari with a cheerful hello and a smile, which isn’t always visible under her mask, but it is certain that she is excited to see them. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, Adhikari would frequently check-in with her regular customers, making sure that Vienna families were staying healthy. Many Madison students found Dairy Queen as the perfect spot to see their friends safely and escape the boredom of quarantine. 

“The pandemic surprisingly caused me to go to Dairy Queen more than I usually would,” Emily Knisley (’22) said. “It became a way for my friends and I to meet up in-person while also staying socially distant. We would grab some ice cream and then sit outside socially distanced to chat.”

As COVID-19 continued to ravage small businesses, the Vienna Dairy Queen was no different. Dairy Queen is franchised to Adhikari, meaning that the store is independently-owned. So luckily, Adhikairi received some small business government aid. However, even with relief, Adhikari was worried that she wouldn’t have enough money to make it through the winter. The colder months are already a slow time for ice cream and would be exacerbated by the pandemic. 

“Like most businesses, we had a hard time throughout the pandemic, and we did close for a short time,” Adhikari said. “However, with the support of our loyal and dear customers we were able to stay in business.”

Just as Adhikari had always looked out for the Vienna community, it was time for loyal Dairy Queen customers to do the same. When the Vienna Foodies Facebook group heard of Adhikari’s struggles, they were swift to take action and help out the beloved neighborhood business. Over the pandemic, the Vienna Foodies have become a lifeline for Vienna businesses. The 9,000 person group promotes changing store hours and delivery abilities and also raises money for charity and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

On Jan. 19, the Vienna Foodies Facebook group organized a tab at Dairy Queen to get members to visit and buy ice cream, raising $700. The group didn’t stop there; Vienna Foodies member Trisha Stotler started a GoFundMe page for Adhikari, which 214 donors donated over $10,805 to. 

“I was very thankful, and surprised since I was not expecting it,” Adhikari said, regarding the Vienna Foodies fundraiser. “Trisha was the one who started the GoFundMe. We were just having a casual conversation when she came in for a treat. We talked about the business and how hard it had been, then to my surprise she went home and started the fundraiser. Everyone had contributed to the fund and I truly was blessed.”

In addition to the Vienna Foodies, Madison students also stepped up to help Adhikari during the pandemic. 

“My family and friends and I made an effort to visit Dairy Queen when we wanted ice cream to help support them through those times,” Knisley said.  

Thanks to help from the Vienna community, Adhikari is hopeful for this summer. As vaccinations increase and people feel safer to venture out for a frozen treat, the Dairy Queen can return as the booming Vienna ice cream shop.

“I hope for this summer to be better and as close to normal as possible, since it seems things are slowly settling down,” Adhikari said. 

But until then, Adhikari continues to cherish her time in Vienna, creating a bond with each customer who walks through the glass doors to order a mint Oreo blizzard, or a vanilla cone covered in sprinkles. 

“Owning a business in Vienna is truly a pleasure,” Adhikari said. “My customers are like family. I have close relationships with most of my customers. The Vienna kids are like my own. I have seen them grow up, watched them go to college and come back and visit me during their summer breaks and after graduating. The best part is regularly seeing the smiling faces of my dear customers, it brings out my smile and I feel very special to be a part of this town and community.”