Dairy Freez part of the Big Decision

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Correction: the Dairy Freez will just be featured on The Big Decision and will not be a part of the challenges segment. Sauve’s Home Centre in Belle River will participate in the challenges segment of the show. The article has been updated to correct this error. We apologize for any inconvenience the error may have caused.

by Rich Parkinson
Local iconic roadside restaurant the Dairy Freez will be featured in CBC’s newest show The Big Decision.

The Big Decision is a new venture, which follows on the heels of the popular TV show Dragon’s Den. The show features two “dragons,” Jim Treliving (owner of Boston Pizza Inc., Mr. Lube, and other businesses) and Arlene Dickinson (the CEO of Venture Communications). This year, the Big Decision went from a 4-part test series to a full season run.

Dairy Freez owners Mike and Arlene Reaume learned last week through a message left on their answering machine that they were selected to be on the show and would be meeting Treliving. There would also be the opportunity to strike up a business deal with the Boston Pizza owner.

Show Producer, Charlie Smith, referred to The Big Decision as a “grass roots show” that focuses on selected small businesses across Canada, particularly older family legacy businesses. It zeroes in on the challenges these small businesses face in a market where the box-stores loom large. It also gives the owners of the businesses some one-on-one time with either Treliving or Dickinson, both very successful business people.

Two businesses are chosen in each region and Smith has a local connection to the Windsor-Essex County region. His big brother, Jeff Smith, is the General Manager at Dave Hitchcock in Essex.
Smith hoped to get some TV focus on Windsor-Essex County, as he knew it was hit hard by the 2008 recession but was fighting back. “There really is a re-invention going on here,” he said.
Last Friday, Smith and the Big Decision crew were at the Freez along with Jim Treliving. Treliving met the Reaumes, assessed the business, and sampled the treats. The Boston Pizza king was all smiles as he dove into an ice cream cone.

Treliving also visited Sauve’s Home Centre in Belle River last Friday. The Home Centre will participate in a challenge portion of the show where Treliving presents two weeks of challenges to a business, ways he thinks they can improve. He will return to Sauve’s after the challenge portion to follow up and then decide whether to invest in the business or not.

Regardless of whether a business on the show receives capital, it always gets free advice. “Our goal is always, through the challenges, to assist the company,” Smith noted.

The experience of visiting small businesses such as the Dairy Freez resonates with Treliving. “[The Dairy Freez] is a great family business,” he said as he saw the roadside restaurant in action. “I grew up with one of these in the small town that I lived in when I was young.

“I started out in much the same way as some of these business did,” he added. “You have little money and it’s a lot of work.”

In 1968, Treliving decided to go into the pizza business. It was a real departure from the career path he was on at the time. He was an RCMP officer and his dad thought he was crazy to open a pizza shop, saying he was going to fail. Treliving viewed his father’s opinion as a challenge and he opened his first Boston Pizza restaurant in Penticton, B.C. From that single restaurant he has built an empire and now has 400 franchisees, which he refers to as his customers.

Treliving’s rise to the top was not an easy ride. “You have to work hard and you don’t have a lot of money,” he said. “It’s about challenges and opportunities.

“In the restaurant business, or any business, you can’t be an island onto yourself,” he noted. “Business is about people and you want to be in partnership with people you want to be around.”

The Big Decision gives Treliving the opportunity to visit small communities across Canada. He feels at home in rural Ontario. “This is a great part of the world, to me,” he said. “And the agriculture here is great.

“In Canada, the recession affected certain pockets. Windsor was hit hard,” he continued. “We saw some of the biggest transitions in the car business and here we are in the heart of car country.”

The Canadian economy, he noted, is coming back, but not quickly like it has before. “We’re coming back slow and sure,” he said.

Treliving said that complacency played a part in the 2008 economic dive. “It’s the little things that kill us.”

Still, he thinks that Canada is “coming back tough” and the world looks to Canada to lead that recovery charge. “I feel very confident that Canada is going to grow.”

He said he is fortunate to be able to do shows like Dragon’s Den and The Big Decision. “I enjoy this and it’s fun for me.”

Treliving’s visit, which came with an accompanying TV crew, has ensured that the Dairy Freez will now get some national attention. That’s quite an accomplishment for the roadside restaurant that is already a local hit.

When Clarence “Click” Wright opened the Freez 58 years ago, in 1954, he probably didn’t think his roadside venture would be part of a national TV show. Sadly, it’s something that the restaurant’s founder won’t enjoy as he passed away earlier this year on April 1.

Wright’s story shares a similar thread to Treliving’s. Wright’s father also told him he wasn’t going to make it, that he’d lose his shirt. Success proved dad wrong and the Freez has served up food year-after-year for over 50 years to thousands of hungry patrons. Generations of local families have made visits to the Dairy Freez part of their regular summer routine.

Wright called the site the restaurant sits on, “God’s Little Acre.” Now, the Big Decision has been made to share with the rest of Canada the joy that acre brings to many local families.  

3 Responses to Dairy Freez part of the Big Decision

  1. Just want to say what a great place Dairy Freez is to visit! My parents, Doug and Roma Le Grand, who have both passed away 2010 & 2009 respectively, took great delight in their weekly visits to the Dairy Freez. We were lucky enough to go along on some of those “ice cream excursions”, and were treated to the best ice cream and even better hospitality. Mike and Arlene were always kind enough to take the time out of their more than busy day to sit and chat a while with Dad and Mum. I always appreciated there hands on and personal touch to the regulars. May I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you did and still do for the area! You only need to say “Dairy Freez” and everyone knows where you are headed and what you will receive when you get there. Good Food, Fabulous Ice Cream Treats, and the warm welcome of owners who are not afraid to role up their sleeves and get in there! Congratulations Mike and Arlene so happy that The Big Decision has chosen you! 🙂 Marty & Donna Dupuis

    Donna Dupuis
    July 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    • Donna,

      Thank you for your very kind words. All of our staff knew your Mum & Dad as our “Grandma & Grandpa Dairy Freez”, and we loved their visits. We miss them terribly. Many of our regular customers just become a part of our Dairy Freez family, and time permitting, we love to visit with them all. We will always remember your Mum & Dad as two of the best. Please know that they are often in our thoughts.

      Again, your heartfelt comments are so appreciated, Arlene

      Arlene Reaume
      July 21, 2012 at 2:06 am

  2. Actually the Dairy Freez was being filmed for a segment of the show on the success of a small family business that has sustained time. Still a great article on the Freez and a heartfelt reflection on its history. I was out there on that 98 degree day with Mr. Parkinson on a “chance” tip of the shows intention to film. Understandable how it was a bit confusing as to exactly what was going on. It was rather exciting. 🙂

    Shelley Beaudoin
    July 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm