DQ to Fill Spot in New Retail Center

March 2012, CUJ

Dairy Queen

Gwena Harris (left), owner of the Pendleton Dairy Queen, has announced plans to open a DQ restaurant on the Umatilla Reservation, which will be run by Rochelle Helfrech (center). Also pictured is Mayra Garcia who has worked at the Pendleton Dairy Queen since August.

Rochelle ‘Ro’ Helfrecht will manage fast food restaurant.

MISSION – Dairy Queen will fill the other drive-thru side of a small retail center that is being built on Tribal property on the west side of Highway 331 in Coyote Business Park on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Rochelle “Ro” Helfrecht, who lives on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, will manage the new restaurant, which is expected to offer 20-30 full- and part-time employment positions. The new Dairy Queen will be owned by Gwena Harris, who has owned the Pendleton DQ store for 19 years.

Helfrecht is enrolled Delaware. She has two children enrolled in the Caddo Tribe from Oklahoma and two children enrolled here with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Dairy Queen will be on the opposite end of the center from a Subway restaurant announced in January.

“Perennial Investments is excited to include Dairy Queen in this project and is equally excited about the increasing interest in businesses locating on the reservation. Dairy Queen offers another choice for customers, especially those who enjoy Dairy Queen’s Treat Menu,” said Carrie Burns, a spokesperson for Perennial Investments, LLC, which is leasing Tribal land to build the retail center.

Both DQ and Subway are expected to open in late June or early July when construction on the 5,800 square foot facility is completed. Currently, a road is being built by CTUIR work crews to provide better access to the retail center, which will be located immediately east of Cayuse Technologies and DaVita, and north of the U.S. Forest Service building that also is under construction.

A McDonald’s restaurant is located in the Arrowhead Travel Plaza on the east side of Highway 331. All three restaurants are within 150 yards of one another but that’s not uncommon. Such restaurants tend to go up where traffic is highest. In Pendleton, for example, Quizno’s, Jack-in-the-Box and Taco Bell are at the same intersection with Pizza Hut not far away. They are located there because of the high traffic volume between nearby Safeway and Wal-Mart.

Harris and Helfrecht anticipate sales from Forest Service, Davita and Cayuse Technologies employees who otherwise have to navigate across the often-time busy highway to reach McDonald’s.

“I think a lot of employees will choose to stay on that (west) side of the highway until a traffic light goes up,” Helfrecht said.

From the east-west freeway or the north-south Highway 331, travelers will have a choice of the three restaurants, or could continue to eat at one of the five eating establishments inside Wildhorse Casino.

“The more choices the better,” Helfrecht said. “This will be one more choice to get what they want.”

Harris, who has owned the Pendleton DQ for 19 years, said the new store will offer the same menu as any other Dairy Queen.

“We have fish, beef, chicken, ice cream treats and ice cream cakes, and we will eventually have the Orange Julius line,” Harris said.

Hours of operation are still to be decided based primarily on demand. Breakfast likely will start at 6:30 a.m. and the store could be open until 10 p.m. or later. Harris figures Dairy Queen will be open later on weekends for the casino and theater crowd, and longer, too, for special events like the July 4 Pow-Wow, car shows and golf tournaments.

This will be the first DQ built on a Northwest Indian reservation, a fact for which both Harris and Helfrecht are proud.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Helfrecht, who moved to the Umatilla Indian Reservation as a 15-year-old when her mother, Kevin Moore, was transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs office here.

Helfrecht she’s excited about managing the new store and has designs on one day owning her own Dairy Queen store.

“I like customer service and I love a challenge,” Helfrecht said. “I’m planning to stick with Dairy Queen and I’d love to own my own store.”

Helfrecht is in the process of attending DQ School, a three-phase learning process that includes a 15-day training stint in Roseburg. There she will be tested on things she mostly knows already, plus other management skills like food and labor costs, employee evaluations, and rules for hours and wages.

Harris has loads of confidence in Helfrecht.

“This business is challenging to me and I couldn’t do it without Rochelle. I wouldn’t do it without Rochelle,” Harris said. “I know Rochelle is going to run it right or I wouldn’t let her do it.”

Like Helfrecht, Harris said she is excited about the possibilities on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

“They are very progressive out there and I want to part of that,” she said. “And I want Rochelle to do better than I have in the last 21 years.”

This story originally appeared in the CUJ. The Confederated Umatilla Journal is the monthly newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon.