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Rochester Top 100: Dairy Queen franchises serve up hot sales

Rochester Business Journal
January 8, 2016

(Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

Neighbors, business partners and friends, Stephen Carl and Mark Goldberg have set a new corporate standard for Dairy Queen franchises in four years since opening here.

The pair runs Operation Brain Freeze LLC that owns four Dairy Queen locations.

They have set corporationwide Dairy Queen records for overall sales, graced the 2014 cover of DQ World—the company’s internal magazine—and have attended a corporate trip to interact with Warren Buffett. Buffett’s company—Berkshire Hathaway Inc.—owns American Dairy Queen Corp.

To date, all four of Operation Brain Freeze’s restaurants have been rated excellent by Dairy Queen corporate—a feat unheard of in the company’s history.

The restaurants are in Greece, Henrietta, Webster and Cicero, a suburb of Syracuse in Onondaga County.

The duo decided to open first in Henrietta in August 2012. The launch was met with strong enthusiasm. It set the record for overall sales among Dairy Queen restaurants across the nation.  The company saw sales climb 109 percent in 2013 and 68 percent in 2014.

“We want to be ahead of the curve and we just knew when we looked at our area that Henrietta was our first priority,” Carl said. “There was such pent-up demand here because Buffalo had Dairy Queens for years but we hadn’t.”

They set another sales record with the opening of the Cicero location in 2015.

Carl previously was president of Clover Capital Management Inc., which was sold to Pittsburgh-based Federated Investors Inc. in 2008. He served as chief operating officer at Federated Clover until June 2014.

He continues to pursue opportunities in the investment world.  He is the majority owner of Operation Brain Freeze.

Goldberg has had more than two decades in the restaurant industry, with leadership roles in companies such as Taco Bell, Tops Friendly Markets LLC (10 years) and most recently Reid Petroleum Corp., where he oversaw the convenience store chain’s food service programs. He serves as franchise president, chief operating officer and partner of Operation Brain Freeze.

“Each step along the way I got to learn different foundations and different fundamentals for my career,” Goldberg said.

By 2008, their jobs were starting to require that they leave Monroe County.

“I wanted to stay in Rochester,” Carl said. “Both of us were trying to find a way to stay home.”

The company’s plan is to open one store a year upstate. The firm has franchise territorial rights for the Rochester and Syracuse areas.

Nationally there are 6,600 Dairy Queens. New York has more than 20; some provide the “Grill and Chill” concept and others are what the company calls treat stores.

Grill and Chill includes food alongside ice cream; the treat stores focus on soft-serve ice cream.

There had not been any Dairy Queens in Monroe County since the 1950s and 1960s, officials said.

Operation Brain Freeze employs 241 employees with plans to add roughly 100 jobs by March.

Just because the brand is recognized, does not mean success is guaranteed, Goldberg said.

“It’s a nickel-dime business and if you don’t have heart, and you don’t have passion, and if you’re not careful, you can lose,” he said.

They hope to open a second Syracuse location this year.

In 2016 the expectation is to remain profitable amid a changing legislative landscape such as the $15 minimum wage law and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“The hardest part really has been some of the local legislative decisions that we really had to manage,” Goldberg said. “And I’m not saying that they’re right and I’m not saying that they’re wrong but they exist and you have to manage through those.”

The Rochester area has embraced Dairy Queen, but the franchise does not take the area for granted.

“We’re going to make it work, we’re going to help rebuild Rochester—we want to be part of that renaissance,” Carl said.

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to

1/8/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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