The Dairy King is a family owned and operated family style restaurant located in South Nashville on East Thompson Lane.
The original concept during the 50’s and 60’s was a Brazier style drive-in, obviously very similar to the Dairy Queen. The original location was on E. Thompson Ln. at Mill Creek on property owned by Bubba Hudelston. The first building constructed was the “Flat Top” barber shop, which was operated by George Gambell for 50 years. Mr. Dudley Jones estimates that the Dairy King Drive In was built some time in the late 40’s. Shortly thereafter, the “Skateland” outdoor skating rink was opened followed by the “Wee Tee Golf” mini golf course. For years the corner was a vibrant family entertainment complex and a favorite hang out for teens.
Thelma and Dudley Jones bought the Dairy King business from Bill Harbison in April 1970 and continued in the tradition of previous owners serving as a hub of the community providing the perfect compliment to the Wee Tee Golf (Skateland closed in the mid 60’s). A young man could bring his girl down for 18 holes of golf and great food without breaking the bank.
In the mid 70’s things started to change. The golf course closed and many major fast food chains appeared suddenly on Murfreesboro Rd. The Jones’ were forced to retool. Thelma had always enjoyed cooking southern style meals as did her mother. They added a bowl of white beans and cornbread to the menu to try and offer something different. That led to ham and cole slaw which led to more and more entrees and vegetables. Before long, they were a full blown meat and three restaurant.
In 1979, the Jones’ had the first encounter with the flood waters of Mill Creek. Several inches of rain brought six feet of water into the building. Devastated, they began the job of cleaning and repair. In those days, there was less government restrictions regarding flood plain property and the Dairy King was reopened, with the help of many volunteers, in just 10 days.
During the 80’s, The Jones’ continued to grow in popularity as great meat & three and in 1988 their son Jeff returned as a full time manager. January 1992, he and Thelma partnered in the purchase of the property. In 1994, they opened the Dairy King Dine- In in the building across the parking lot from the Drive In. In January 2000, Jeff bought the business from his parents.
The next encounter with the flood waters of Mill Creek for the Dairy King was May 1st, 2010. Once again, massive rains brought six feet of water in the building. With the help of no less than 50 friends and family members, they were able to evacuate most of the equipment from the building in a very short time. It was an amazing sight. However, unlike 1979, rebuilding was not an option. The Jones’ were not allowed a building permit. Gone were 40 years of work. Gone was the charm and history of that old building.
Devastated, they began the search for a new location. They were led to 306 E. Thompson Ln., one half mile from the old location. It is the site of the old Lester’s Pharmacy and Taylor’s Pharmacy. By the grace of God and with the help of many friends and family, they were able to acquire the property and build the new restaurant.
So, the legacy continues. The new building is bigger and better, many of the staff is the same and the food is as great as it ever was. Many days Mr. and Ms Jones still show up to greet old friends. The family is very proud to have the opportunity to serve the community they love so well.