Ice cream shop owner takes to social media to share frustration over work force issues, stress

Melissa Utley asks customers to try to be a little understanding.
This Dairy Queen has been a fixture in Salisbury for more than 70 years, but owner Melissa Utley says she’s never seen it quite like this.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 3:52 PM EDT

SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - An iconic small business in Salisbury is struggling because the owner simply can’t find workers.

The West Innes Dairy Queen has been a fixture since 1950, but owner Melissa Utley says she’s never seen the labor market like this, and it has brought her to tears.

“This should be a happy experience and I try to still make it that way,” Utley said.

Going to get ice cream is always a treat for the customers, and Utley is going to make sure it stays that way. But it’s getting more difficult, all because she can’t find workers.

“We’re all struggling. It’s just unprecedented times for us all and I think, I think there’s just such a lack of respect in the world today. People don’t respect their jobs, they don’t respect each other,” Utley said.

She took to social media on Thursday to let her customers know just how frustrating it has been, and imploring customers to understand that there may be days when the wait is a little longer.

“There was one Sunday I was here by myself and I had a line to the road and I almost sat down and cried and turned off the lights and closed the window, but I didn’t. I kept pushing through,” Utley said. “As long as I can do it, I’m going to be here even if I’m by myself.”

Customer Melissa Carter saw that Facebook post.

“Dairy Queen is always busy. You would think they would have adequate staff and I felt sorry for her when I was reading that article,” Carter said.

“I don’t think my customers can see the stress that this has all caused, and I know that I’m not alone,” Utley added.

And she’s not. Small businesses across the country are reporting that they are having a hard time finding workers. It’s a similar story a few blocks away at the Spice and Tea Exchange.

“It has been difficult,” said Dionna Milem. “We can typically get help that are high school or college age, but what I’ve had difficulty finding is adults that can be like a lead.”

Utley says she will stick with it - waiting on customers alone, picking up trash in the parking lot, and smiling - all so her customers can still enjoy this experience, but hopefully understand the cost.

“I was just trying to get people to see my dilemma and hopefully it’ll make people realize that they need to be nicer to each other,” she said.

Copyright 2022 WBTV. All rights reserved.