A husband-wife franchise team in Alabama have plans to open a DQ Grill & Chill in Van Buren as one of seven locations that will be open in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Aimee and Terry Sims have signed a seven-deal multitrade agreement so that they “locked in” the locations where they plan to expand their Dairy Queen restaurants, Aimee Sims said during a phone interview.

“We’ve already paid to secure the area, including Van Buren, so that no other franchisee can expand there,” Sims said.

Each location will employ 55 to 65 people and will cost $12 million to $15 million to develop, Sims said.

DQ Grill & Chill restaurants feature a modern design and patio with outside tables and seating.

An exact location in Van Buren for the new restaurant has not yet been determined, but bids have been put out on potential properties, Sims said.

Van Buren was chosen as one of the seven DQ restaurant locations because of the population and a favorable site study, Sims said.

“DQ is a brand that does just fine in small towns; it’s a stand-alone brand,” Sims said. “We think it’s something Van Buren will get excited about because we don’t think there’s anything quite like it in that area.”

DQ restaurant is unique because it offers three types of products - hot food, ice cream and cakes, she said.

In addition, the Simses spent time in the area “watching the traffic, eating in the restaurants and talking to the people in the area,” Sims said.

“After so much time in this business, you just get to the point that when you go to a place you just get a feeling that it’s going to be a good fit for your brand,” Sims said.

Aimee and Terry Sims have spent a combined total of 55 years in the restaurant business, according to their biography. They have opened two highly successful DQ stores in Alabama.

As part of that agreement with ADQ, which franchises the restaurants, the Simses have a timeline to build the seven restaurants, Sims said. The first restaurant likely will be in Springdale and be complete by the end of April; the second must be built by September, she said.

“We must do two stores each year per the agreement, but after the first year we will likely do three stores each year,” Sims said.

Fred Afarisi will move to Northwest Arkansas from North Little Rock to work as the couple’s director of operations for the region, and will open each store with a management team, Sims said.

Sims and her husband also will be at the opening of each location, she said.

Barring extenuating circumstances, Sims expects it to be at least a year before the DQ restaurant opens in Van Buren, she said.

Other DQ locations will be in Rogers, Tonitown, Springdale, Siloam Springs and two in Fort Smith, Sims said. The couple hope to open a total 15 stores in the area, she said.