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One of the worst things that ever happened to Karl Westberg turned out to be one of the best, too.

It was March 29, 1998, and Westberg was managing a Godfather's Pizza store in St. Peter, Minnesota, the town where he had graduated from college several months earlier.

The Lincoln native was looking to move back to Lincoln at some point but hadn't decided when.

He does remember, though, that his horoscope that morning read, "move soon."

Little did he know how soon that would be.

Later that day, an F3 tornado swept through St. Peter, part of an outbreak of 16 tornadoes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The tornado did an estimated $120 million damage in the town of about 10,000 people, including destroying hundreds of buildings.

Westberg happened to be doing laundry in the basement of his apartment complex, which was one of the buildings destroyed.

After the twister went through, "I had my laundry and my car. That's about it," he said.

Though Westberg had been planning to move back to his hometown at some point, the tornado accelerated his timetable.

He also owned a rental property in St. Peter that was destroyed, and he used the insurance payout he received as seed money to pursue his dream of owning his own restaurant.

The next year he used the money to purchase a Dairy Queen store at 27th and Holdrege streets in Lincoln.

"That's where I cut my teeth," Westberg said. "It was a good opportunity on a smaller scale to learn how to run a business."

Having mastered running a smaller Dairy Queen store, Westberg was ready for something bigger, and when Dairy Queen debuted its Grill & Chill concept a few years later, he jumped at the chance to be a pioneer, opening Nebraska's first DQ Grill & Chill restaurant near the 27th Street exit on Interstate 80 in 2003.

He has steadily added to his franchise count in the Lincoln area, opening DQ Grill & Chills at 84th Street and Nebraska 2 in 2009, 16th Street and Old Cheney Road in 2013 and another one in Crete.

His most recent addition is the new DQ Grill & Chill at 850 Fallbrook Blvd., which opened in September.

Westberg said he wasn't really looking to open another Dairy Queen in Lincoln.

"But Jim Abel (owner of Fallbrook developer Nebco) wanted one in his neighborhood," he said. "They gave me good rent and a good lease."

Westberg said the Fallbrook Dairy Queen is likely his last in Lincoln, as the market is getting pretty saturated, with eight locations.

"We've been blessed these 20 years," he said. "I can't complain."

"It's been 20 years of fun, and it all started by getting blown away by a tornado."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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