"This place is always packed at lunchtime," laughs a Dairyette devotee as he makes his way to the counter to place his order. "What are you gonna do, Roy?"
"I'm gonna build up," quips owner Roy Bohannon. "And the top's gonna rotate!"
The truth is that if Roy did indeed want to expand, up is the only direction available.
"This is like a lot of places built in the 1950's," he says. "It was a block building, and they sold ice cream through a front window. They were probably only open a few months out of the year. In 1967, they did add a small seating area with a few indoor booths. Another one was added in 1981. It sounds amazing, but this place is now double the size it was originally, and we're out as far as we can go." For most, however, they don't want to see a thing change.
The Dairyette is a nostalgic throwback that is embedded deep within the fiber of our community. "Everyone remembers the Dairyette," says Roy. "I graduated from Lone Oak in '78, and I remember coming up here. People tell us all the time about some of their fondest memories and how the Dairyette was a part of those. Take this booth we're sitting at, for example. A local couple had their first date right here. They came in not too long ago and celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary with their two daughters at this same booth. Those kind of stories are common around here!"
And even though Roy and wife Becky have only owned the landmark burger joint since 2009, the spirit of Dairyette has always seemed to be at work in Roy's heart. "I'm an old BBQ guy, and my dream for a long time was to retire from my job, get a little hole-in-the-wall BBQ place, and live happily ever after." Due to corporate cutbacks, however, Roy lost his job 7 years before his planned retirement, an event that now seems to be providential. Roy, aware that the owner of Dairyette was thinking of selling, dove into his dream headlong. "I am honored, really, to keep this tradition going. It's also humbling, and it often makes me nervous. We are on stage, everyday. People see what is going on here, and they watch closely because it is so important to them and this community. It is part of who we are. We even have some of the kids who work here come in and tell us that they are starting to get recognized around the community as a Dairyette person! The association is strong."
The cornerstone for Roy is keeping things simple. He's added his signature BBQ to the daily menu and made a few minor changes. But in the end, it all comes back to serving old-school burgers, shakes, and fries. "We do it the Dairyette way," he says. "Everything is fresh and cooked to order. Betty Krimple, who has been helping out here for over twenty years and knows everyone within a thousand miles, helps out during lunch. Lynn Stinson manages for me, and he's been here about as long as Betty. So we have some great folks watching over the kitchen, and they know what they're doing!"
Some of their signature burgers include the Bucko and the MO MO. The Bucko features sauteed onions and is served on a hoagie roll. The MO MO is two quarter-pound patties, four bacon strips, and sweet-smoked BBQ sauce served on a bun. "Yeah, that one comes with an optional fifteen minute nap," laughs Roy.
"We want to keep this place going," adds Roy. "We want it to be fun, affordable, and a part of people's lives as it has been all these years. When they come in and say it's just like they always remembered it, then we know we've done our job."