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The recognition came as a surprise, said Lynn Lawrence.

“It’s a little shocking,” Lawrence told the Gazette.

At the Feb. 8 Wilton Manors Commission meeting, Lawrence was selected as the city’s Black History Month honoree. She has owned and operated the Wilton Drive Dairy Queen for 22 years.

“It’s a good community,” Lawrence said. “I love being here. Wilton Manors is a very friendly place. It feels like home. Everybody looks out for each other. It’s a great place to be and I’m blessed to be here.”

Lawrence moved to Florida from North Carolina in 1990 and after working a less than fulfilling job, she went to the bank, got a loan and took a chance on the iconic soft-serve ice cream franchise.

“I was in the right place at the right time and God showed me the way,” she said.

Lawrence said her daily business approach is to treat everyone with kindness and respect.

“It’s all about how you treat people,” Lawrence said. “I love working here and serving our customers. If you are good to your customers, they’ll be good to you and our customers are very loyal.”

Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton said the honor was well-earned.

“Lynn has been an outstanding resident of this city for a long time,” said Newton. “I think she should have been recognized a lot sooner.”

Located at 1950 Wilton Drive, the Dairy Queen is a throwback to a bygone era. Customers order their treats at a window. The tiny building is 69 years old, Lawrence said, and she fondly recalls first taking over.

“It was like the Andy Griffith show here,” she said. “The police officers would stop by and say hello and give me their cards. Everybody knew everybody.”

Mary Ulm, president of the Board of Directors for the Wilton Manors Historical Society, said she uses the Dairy Queen as a wayfinding landmark for directions.

“People always know where it is,” said Ulm. “I often use it as a point of reference when sending people to Richardson Park.”

Ulm said Lawrence’s gentle and giving spirit has served her well through the years, remembering how she sent financial support across the street to the annual Taste of the Island event.

“That impressed me,” Ulm said.

As a Black woman, Lawrence said she is grateful for the work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and does not view her race or gender as hindrances, instead acknowledging those identifiers have instilled a strong desire to succeed.

“I feel like in life whether you are white or Black, if you want to do something you have to push hard and make it happen,” she said. “You have to keep trying and never give up and treat every failure as a learning experience. If you really want something you have to work hard for it.”

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