Not many employees are inspired to write a poem about where they work.

So when Greg and Diane Mosso read “Ode to Dairy Queen” penned by a teenage employee, their hearts melted like a soft-serve ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

The couple owned the Sun Prairie Dairy Queen for more than 38 years before retiring in September. Nate Anderson has now taken over the beloved business, but the Mossos still consider the DQ part of their lives.

Since the 1950s, the business — with its distinct red barn roof — has been a landmark in Sun Prairie. For decades, the Mossos welcomed people at the DQ—teens on their first date, kids riding their bikes down to get a cone, and regulars like Mr. Hot Fudge Sundae man.

Hundreds of local teens earned their first paychecks there, and it’s been a place to meet up with friends and family.

“It’s always been an old fashioned Dairy Queen — those hot summer nights when the baseball teams were here, the drive-through line backed up and the parking lot full. It’s been a place for people to just come and enjoy themselves. And we were proud of that,” Greg said.

The novice entrepreneurs bought the Sun Prairie spot in 1981. In their mid-20s and a little naive, Greg said, they wanted to be their own bosses. They scouted out several spots in the Midwest before settling on the Sun Prairie location, leasing the store with an option to buy after five years. Diane recalled at first, she was unsure they could make a success of it.

“We worked seven days a week, open to close,” Diane said. “We came in April and never took a night off until June 10, our wedding anniversary—we went down to eat at Herreman’s because it was so close and Greg could leave during dinner to go back to change the ice cream mix.”

The two worked so many hours they rented a duplex behind the store, and even put a cot in the back room where they could take naps between shifts.

The couple was lucky to step into the Dairy Queen business just as the Blizzard explosion was about to hit.

Lines formed out the door to get the new shakes mixed with candy. Diane remembered that they were so busy that the motor of the Blizzard machine would burn out, and they used hammers to crush Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and M&M’s—because pre-cut candy was a thing of the future. The two also hand-dipped the Dilly Bars—hundreds of them when local schools put in an order.

But being surrounded by sweet treats never dampened their enthusiasm for DQ.

“I could probably eat Dairy Queen every day—a cone or something else—but my favorite is a hot fudge malt,” Greg said.

Diane usually likes to make an off-the-menu-Blizzard—customizing the shakes with some of her favorite add-ins.

Inside the small DQ on Main Street, there are pictures of the little league team that the Mossos sponsored through the decades and other memorabilia. The Mossos did some remodeling over the years to the business but kept it a hometown spot.

“Customers told us that they didn’t want it to change too much, they wanted it to stay just the way it is,” Diane said.

A family business

Diane and Greg talk about their employees as if they were their children. Many Sun Prairie teens had their first job at the DQ and the couple said they tried to make it a good experience.

“We had to wear a lot of different hats, you know, with the kids throughout the years, being a friend, a boss and a mentor,” Greg said.

Greg said they supported their employees during good times and bad. After the home of assistant manager, Bri was destroyed during the July 10, 2018, natural gas explosion in Sun Prairie, Diane took her to buy some new shoes for work. Bri said she appreciated that.

“It nice to have a personal connection with Greg and Diane because at other jobs you don’t usually have that,” Bri said. “They ran the business like a family, so that was very nice.”

Diane would give employees little gifts around Christmas and encouraged them to dress up for Halloween.

Liz, is the DQ’s longest-running employee, working there for more than 29 years. Other family members have also joined her, including her daughter Bri and grandma Linda.

Former employees also would come back for a visit from college or bring in their own kids to get a treat.

The Mosso kids—Justin, Michael, and Allison— also helped out at the store when they were little and during college summer breaks.

Saturdays off

Days after the Mossos turned over the keys to the new owner, Greg headed out to the golf course to enjoy some free time. It was the first time he ever finished a round of golf without his work phone going off.

“That was something new for me,” Greg said.

Now they are having fun exploring new hobbies. Greg has taken up oil painting, inspired by the late Bob Ross and his “happy trees” and YouTube tutorials.

Greg and Diane, both dog lovers, just came back from volunteering at a pet rescue in Mississippi. Diane also helps out and supports dog rescues in Wisconsin, including Albert’s Dog Lounge that finds homes for senior canines.

The two are no longer tied down with a seven-day-a-week schedule but they say they are definitely going to miss seeing employees and customers.

“We got to know people—Mr. Hot Fudge Man and the other regulars—we are going to miss that—and all the customers who supported us through the years,” Greg said.

New owner takes over

Nate Anderson took over the Sun Prairie Dairy Queen on Sept. 6 and other than a few upgrades, he doesn’t plan to make any changes. Anderson credits the Mossos and longtime staffers for the smooth transition.

Greg Mosso said they decided to sell to Anderson because they felt he was the best fit to keep the landmark DQ going.

“He is the perfect guy to run this store,” Greg said.

The Sun Prairie Dairy Queen is located at 704 W. Main St.; phone 608-837-6011. Get more info at www.dairyqueen.com.

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