Dairy Queen in the Petite Patrie. Photo by Kate McDonnell
Branded architecture is wrong in so many ways: it’s disposable, it’s a waste of space, it’s vulgar. So then why do I have such a soft spot for Dairy Queen’s little Swiss huts?
It must go back to the Dairy Queen at the corner of Park and Bérubé in Montreal. Red-roofed, fronted by a small parking lot and concrete terrace, it sits next to a row of triplexes in the shadow of an apartment tower — a country bumpkin oblivious to its own incongruousness. Every winter, the small parking lot out front is covered by a mountain of snow, until one day in March when the snow begins to melt and a neon sign is switched on — Ouvert — a harbinger of spring.
On summer nights, when the day’s humid heat settled in my living room, I would jump on my bike and ride south down Hutchison to indulge in a guilty pleasure. Hot fudge sundae, sometimes a Blizzard — these were my indulgences estivales. The pleasure is guilty because I knew I should be spending my money on handcrafted gelato from Havre aux Glaces, but instead I was forking over $3 at a corporate franchise that specializes in junk-food ice cream.
I’ve had a thing for Dairy Queen since I was a kid, when I liked the hot fudge sauce so much that my grandmother went to one of its outlets and asked to buy a cup of sauce to take back home, hoping to surprise me when I paid a visit. (The manager refused to sell it to her.) Those flavours, as simple and over-processed as they may be, are seared into my memories of summer.
In Montreal, though, I like to think that much of the attraction came from the happiness of participating in the age-old tradition of sitting in a parking lot eating soft-serve as the last purple rays of sunshine fade from the sky.
Tags: Mile End, Montreal, Park Avenue, Personal History, Summer