By Ken and Tammy Breau
We recently purchased two long-running Dairy Queen (DQ) franchises in Brantford, Ont. They’re really a nostalgic part of the city’s heritage, representing 62 years of continuous family ownership. Now they also represent a long future for our own family. Needless to say, this is a very exciting adventure.
I grew up in Kitchener, Ont., with one brother and one sister. I was always a hard worker, starting with a newspaper route, and had an entrepreneurial spirit. I was also handy and liked taking things apart. When I was 12 to 14 years old, I used to rebuild and refurbish old lawn mowers, then sell them to new owners. I also went to drive-ins and cleaned car windows to earn a few extra dollars.
During my high school years, I got involved as a volunteer for Rogers Cable, a telecommunications provider. That experience led me to explore the technical side of the broadcasting industry, studying at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont. During the summers, I worked for Rogers at night and did small engine repairs at a Sears store during the day.
I’d thought about working in the broadcasting industry when I grew up, so I always kept busy to improve my skills and ensure I would be in demand. After I completed my studies at Loyalist College, I took some additional courses at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., and Mohawk College in Hamilton.
By the late 1980s, however, I decided I didn’t want to keep driving all the way to Toronto, where all of the broadcast jobs were. Instead, since I enjoyed fixing things, I did an electrical apprenticeship.
In 1989, I had the opportunity to join Brantford Mechanical as an electrician. As the name suggests, this meant moving to Brantford. It was during my first marriage and we bought a house there where we would start our family.
Brantford’s a great city with great people. While Kitchener has grown too big for me over the years, Brantford’s still nice and quiet. It also seemed like a very central place from which I could still visit Kitchener, Hamilton, Mississauga, Toronto, etc.
I was born in Milton, Ont., and raised in Hamilton, where my parents moved for work. I’m the eldest of four kids, with one sister and two brothers. At times, I was like a mother to them, as our parents were both working two jobs.
For a while, I wanted to be an airline stewardess, but I knew the job would not be conducive to having a family of my own. I was working as a secretary when a friend’s mother suggested applying for nursing school, as she noticed I was a compassionate person who had taken care of my younger siblings. I heeded her advice and, after my studies, worked for Hamilton General Hospital for 10 years, followed by stints in long-term, palliative and home care.
As a teenager, I’d dated the captain of the hockey and football teams. We went on to have four children together. The second, Amanda, was born with significant disabilities, which posed great challenges for our relationship. In the end, we went our separate ways.
For me, the experience of raising a child with special needs made me a better nurse, as I understood what major care was really about. I wasn’t just reading lines out of a textbook to my patients.
I’m also a very emotional person. Whenever a patient I was helping care for in the hospital died,
I would end up bawling in the hallway—not because I knew the individual personally, which I didn’t, but out of compassion for the family in their time of loss.