Smile Truckee, you’re at the DQ |

Smile Truckee, you’re at the DQ

Kim Yamauchi, left, employee Emma Maiden, and daughter Anna Yamauchi will offer early morning hours and drive-through deals beginning this fall at Truckee's Dairy Queen.
Courtesy Christina Nemec |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Back in the summer of 1998, the Yamauchi family from Chicago never imagined owning one of Truckee’s oldest ice cream eateries, which opened more than 20 years ago.

Yet on April 1, 2013 the family took possession of this local franchise. Dairy Queen is poised to once again become a popular Truckee eatery.

The family bought a home in Tahoe Donner and for 17 years, the Truckee home was a summer getaway.

“I would bring the kids to Truckee every summer,” said Kim Yamauchi. “We called it family camp, where the kids were able to participate in many of the outdoor programs offered throughout the Truckee community.”

Yamauchi paused — “And Dairy Queen played a big role in our summers. When the kids were young we would take them [Zach and Anna] on long hikes, rock climbing with NASTC, or spend the day playing on the lake and catching crawdads.

“And at the end … the kids were always hungry and tired and hot and thirsty … Often the only way I could get them to finish the hike or climb was to say, ‘When we get down, we are going to Dairy Queen … Then they would start naming the DQ treats they wanted: a Blizzard, a milkshake, and of course a poochie cup for the dog.”

Unfortunately, each summer came to an end.

The kids would literally break down in tears as they packed.


An autumn bike ride in 2011 inspired the Chicago to Truckee move. “It was just the two of us (her husband) on our mountain bikes in October,” recalled Yamauchi. “… One of those classic fall days, the aspen leaves were full of color. After that amazing fall ride, we agreed that it’s now or never.”

The kids finished their school year in Chicago, the family packed their bags, and arrived in Truckee the following June.

The move to Truckee motivated Yamauchi’s husband to consider investing in a local business, providing his family with an opportunity to be part of the business community.

What a surprise when he spontaneously purchased the local Dairy Queen, which had been listed for sale earlier in the year by the Carson City owners.

The couple’s offer was accepted.


Kim Yamauchi found herself self attending DQ classes — learning how to make Blizzards, milkshakes, banana splits, fruit smoothies, and panini sandwiches.

“There I was in Reno handing out Blizzards and hamburgers to people and they were smiling,” said Kim Yamauchi. “It’s so easy to put smiles on people’s faces.”

This was a far different experience from her first job at IBM 25 years ago.

“I must confess that not too long ago the only thing I ordered from DQ was a cup of coffee, but now my favorite order is a strawberry-banana fruit smoothie, with protein powder and a freshly grilled panini sandwich, and of course an occasional frozen mocha coffee (moolatte) drink,” added Yamauchi.

Now she’s focusing on putting those smiles on Truckee residents.

Locals will see some fun changes at the Dairy Queen.

Flowers now freshen up the perimeter and a new brick patio with outdoor tables and umbrellas beckons guests. “And by winter time, we want to offer skiers a breakfast menu and good drive-through coffee.”

Kim Yamauchi reflects, savoring the words: “We did that quite honestly because our family loves Peet’s coffee, but no one else in town serves it.”


This fall, Kim Yamauchi plans to change DQ’s morning opening hours to accommodate customers looking for a quick breakfast and cup of coffee on the go.

To promote the “reopening,” customers can also look forward the lunch deals, smoothie discounts, good deal Peets and Orange Julius.

And yes, they’re going to the dogs — remember Fido with the Truckee DQ Poochie Cup — a complementary dish of ice cream for the dogs.

“Even though it’s a fast-food franchise, our staff knows very well that we are fortunate to have so many loyal customers and that everyone’s DQ experience should be a happy one. The employees know that Truckee means ‘welcome’ in the Pahute, and we hope we make every customer feel welcomed,” said Yamauchi.

— Christina Nemec is a free-lance writer, teacher and writing consultant, owner of Tahoe Scribe Custom Writing Services, or

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