Dairy Queen changes hands, but won’t lose local flavor

The Celeste family, also owners of Rosewater, have bought the DQ.

Three children sprint and abruptly stop at a counter. With his money clutched firmly in hand, Kaio Pereira, soon to be an eighth grader at the Edgartown School, recites his order to the summer staff at Dairy Queen. He walks away gleefully with not only a blue raspberry Arctic Rush slushie, but a blue raspberry-covered tongue.

On any given day, you can find lines of eager kids waiting in and outside Dairy Queen to beat the heat. The most popular menu items are the Blizzards of the month and the cones, according to DQ employee Ana De Guzman.

While the Island Dairy Queen, one of the few national chains on the Vineyard, recently changed hands, customers like the ones who rush in on opening day or the last day of school will be happy to know that’s about all the changes they’ll see at the summer hotspot. The past owners, Erika and Tony Bettencourt, have passed the local establishment from their family to the Celeste family, with their 26-year-old son, Max Celeste, in place as the new manager.

You might call Mr. Celeste a wash-ashore, but he’s lived on the Island a while now. Like many young people coming to the Vineyard, Mr. Celeste landed a summer job here at age 18. That year kicked off a series of summers, many of which were at Wind’s Up, where he worked his way from staffer to manager. His family felt as enamored of the Island as he did, and stayed full-time.

Mr. Celeste plans on keeping the Ma and Pa shop vibe alive, as well as the tradition of opening in the afternoon during the spring. Kids come in for something as simple as a small cone, but it gives them such joy. “Sometimes kids get all excited, and their parents have to calm them down. It’s an awesome part of the job that people want to be here. Opening day at Dairy Queen is like a big deal — like Groundhog Day in a way,” Mr. Celeste said. “It means summer is on the horizon.”


The origins of Edgartown DQ

The Dairy Queen we see while driving along Main Street is, in fact, not the first Dairy Queen established on the Island. In 1967, Richard C. Brown, former Island resident, built the first DQ across the street from the current one. He eventually sold the space in 1983, 10 years before the Dairy Queen from which we all get our Blizzards now was established, according to Mr. Bettencourt.

The Bettencourt family owned the building on 242 Main St. for some time. In the 1990s, the space cleared out, and it was up to Mr. and Mrs. Bettencourt to decide what to do with it. “My wife and I were driving around Orlando, and she saw a DQ with a long line, and she said, We should do that!” said Mr. Bettencourt. A few months later, they had called the Dairy Queen headquarters and begun to set up shop, creating a business and aspect of the community that has prospered for the past 23 years.

Over those years, Dairy Queen has been enjoyed by countless community members. People of all ages sprint to its doors when it opens early in March. “I’m always surprised,” said Mr. Bettencourt; “we go from seemingly seeing no people on the Island to having everyone at our door.”


He came for the work, stayed for the chill

The Celeste family first arrived on Martha’s Vineyard simply as summer vacationers. Max Celeste’s sister attended the improv camp on Island, and growing up, the Vineyard seemed more like a pipe dream than a future home. As time passed, each member of the family fell more in love with the Island and made plans to move out year-round. Since arriving, the Celeste family has become significantly involved in Island life and with the community. Julia Celeste manages Rosewater, while Mr. Celeste manages Dairy Queen, is involved with the Island artisan scene, and is an avid surfer of the south coast of the Island. “I like living on the Vineyard so much because there are swings — it’s super busy, it’s super chill, and the shoulders are the best,” Mr. Celeste said.

Like watersport fanatics, Mr. Celeste did not want to reveal his favorite surfing spot. While Dairy Queen has begun to take up more time, Mr. Celeste still manages to carve out time to surf. He tried making a few surfboards, but says they are nothing to brag about. “The boards pretty much broke instantly,” he said. Aside from surfboards, Mr. Celeste has also made himself into a local artist’s handyman. Most recently he helped J. Lagemann put the Harpooner back up in Menemsha. “I helped him with the installation and welding on the spear — it seems like anyone you meet on the Island that seems quirky ends up being an artist in some way,” Mr. Celeste said. He’s grateful for the chance to pick up some welding skills.


Seamless transition

The first week was hectic, but Mr. Celeste says the Bettencourts are a generous couple that has made the transition as seamless as possible.

“Erika and Tony treated the staff really well, like family,” he said. “Part of the appeal moving in here was that network of support. We hopped on the treadmill at a speed of 10, but Erika and Tony have been like, Stay on, you’re gonna be OK!” Most of the staff and management style of Mr. and Mrs. Bettencourt have been retained.

“It does not seem like off-Island coming in, or a corporate franchise, but part of the Island community,” Mr. Celeste said. “You go in and there’s just a counter, and there’s only ice cream and hotdogs. The Dairy Queen on the Vineyard looks like a house.”

And it does, with its salt-water-worn siding, peeking from behind tree branches, and a small deck where kids line up post-field trip at the museum. Mr. Celeste prefers vanilla ice cream.

While the Bettencourts are happy for the change, they will miss the little shop. “We had a great family-run business. I think we’ll miss being as involved in the community. We seemed to donate to everything, and it was great when people came to our store and we were able to help them out,” said Mr. Bettencourt.


A blur and a whir

DQ Blizzards are made by putting soft-serve ice cream and toppings of a customer’s choice into a cup. Ana gives it a whirl with the Blizzard machine, which can be heard constantly in the background. Before handing away the Blizzard, she flips it upside down.

Kids watch in astonishment as the ice cream seems to defy gravity. “The kids love it when we flip the ice cream upside down. If it falls, they get the next Blizzard for free,” said Ms. De Guzman.

However, it is not only children who frequent DQ, but people of all ages. Smiling faces, both young and old, wait by the counter and smile brightly when handed their creamy treats. The Schoenberg family along with their friends have made trips to DQ into a tradition.

“We come here every year on the last day of school,” said Kathleen Schoenberg. When asked about their favorite flavors, kids Finlee Callen and Franklyn and Matthew Schoenberg rattled off cone combos. Ken and Kathleen Schoenberg, however, did not have a favorite. “We take the leftovers. We don’t order, but we take the table scraps,” they said, laughing.

From the size of the cones and Blizzards of Finlee, Franklyn, and Matthew, the parents won’t go hungry.



  1. I have fond memories of the original Dairy Queen in the early 1980s. We would play a Little League game at the Edgartown School where Mr. Brown’s strike zone (he was the only umpire as far as I can recall) was from approximately one inch to four inches off the ground. Then we’d go buy ice cream from him at Dairy Queen. Island life!

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