Sweet family business

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DQ owner honored for 40 years in Bedford

By John Barnhart

Rick De Simone, of Bedford, bought a sweet business back in 1970. That’s the year he purchased Bedford’s Dairy Queen. He’s owned the place ever since and, last week, Matt Dunham, vice president of Dairy Queen of Virginia, came to Bedford to honor him for 40 years in the business.    

    De Simone’s relationship with Dunham’s family also goes back four decades.
    “He signed a contract with my grandfather in 1971,” Dunham said.
    It’s     a     hand-written     contract between Bedford’s Dairy Queen and Dairy Queen of Virginia, and represents the way things used to be. Matt Dunham’s grandfather, Ed Dunham, bought the exclusive rights to Dairy Queen in Virginia in 1958. This is something that can’t be done today.
    The contract that Ed Dunham signed with De Simone, in turn, is also something that is no longer done. It doesn’t have an expiration date.
    “This is one of the oldest contracts we have that is still active,” Dunham commented.
    De Simone came to Bedford in 1961 to be plant manager of Rubatex’s Bondtex division, a job he held for 33 years.
    Bedford’s Dairy Queen had been built in the 1950s and De Simone bought it “to keep my kids busy and out of trouble.”
    “That goes for the grandkids and great-grandkids too,” he added.
    His daughter, Maria McKinney, ran it for 38 years. Then Carlee De Simone took over as manager. She was 19 at the time and knew the business, having worked there since she was 12.
    “She is one of the hardest workers I know,” commented Amy Lawhorne, field services consultant for Dairy Queen of Virginia. Lawhorne also came from Richmond to honor Rick De Simone.
    Another way Bedford’s Dairy Queen represents the way things used to be is its whole concept.
    “It’s probably one of the oldest in Virginia,” Rick De Simone said.
    He said that it is the original Dairy Queen building design and the last walk-up Dairy Queen still operating in Virginia. It may even be the last one left of its kind, period.
    The day selected to present De Simone with his recognition award was in itself a special day for him. On Aug. 26, he turned 89. The event was celebrated with a custom Dairy Queen ice cream cake.