April 29, 2019
Sue Tierno & Kathy Wood
703 Rockland Rd., LB
Suzy’s Swirl is a family-owned and operated frozen dessert business swirling frozen happiness–offering the most craveable yogurt, gelato, sorbetto, ice and custards.
Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce: What was the inspiration behind opening Well,Suzy’s Swirl?
Sue Tierno: There were so many! My sister, Kathy, has been in the food service business for over 30 years. Really she was the brains behind it all. We joke about how she opened it with herself and three knuckleheads! Originally, 8 or so years ago, Kathy and my husband Joe were going to open up a fast casual Italian restaurant. But on October 1, 2011, my husband passed away. So we put things on hold for a little while and tried to regroup and get everybody back to where they needed to be. You know, we were just eating a lot of frozen yogurt at the time. So, we came up with the idea and thought, let’s give this a try. We’ve been in Lake Bluff since June of 2014.
Kathy Wood: With the passing of Joe, and where Sue and her family were, and where I was, we kind of combined both of our visions. I wanted to build a great business for my family and Sue wanted to really show her children that after a great loss, you can have a great life. So, we brought both of our visions together and thought, let’s show that you can still pursue the American Dream through innovation, great relationships and frozen happiness. That became our true north star and the impetus behind what we wanted to do, and it’s been the driving force behind everything we’ve been doing since. It really fits with our mission statement, which is swirling goodness with our products, swirling greatness with our team members and their job experience with us, and swirling gratitude for our customers and our community.
LFLBC: What is your business vision? Where is Suzy’s Swirl headed?
KW: You know, we love Lake Bluff, and we just signed another five-year lease, which is awesome so that we can continue to be part of the Lake Bluff and Lake Forest communities. But also, we are heading toward the retail food service area. We are in the process of launching Suzy’s Swirl craft cocktails and craft beer lines. They are now available online and we are working with local grocery specialty retailers to put it in their locations as well. There is no one in the space doing it yet!
LFLBC: What is the one thing you want people to know about Suzy’s Swirl?
KW: I think Suzy’s Swirl is about really being able to pursue the American Dream . We’re working to develop the next generation of young leaders with our team here. We’re trying to be great stewards in the community. And at the same time, we’re trying to build a successful and profitable business.
ST: Suzy’s Swirl is all about family. We’re a family-owned business, and all of our swirlers are family. So I really think family, hope and joy is really at the heart of Suzy’s Swirl.
LFLBC: What has been your greatest business initiative?
ST: It’s our partnership with College of Lake County. For the past five years we have been a sponsor of their entrepreneurial program called ‘The Big Idea.’ So, college kids pitch an idea, like for a product or an initiative they want to pursue, and they go up before five judges and pitch their idea. Then we give them a generous donation to go towards their college education. That’s been one of our biggest achievements.
LFLBC: How do you give back to the community?
KW: One of our greatest collaborations is with the Lake Bluff Park District and the Lake Bluff July 4th parade. We’re supporters of Bluffinia, we get involved in many of Lake Bluff’s activities, we’re involved with the Lake Forest High School Turnabout Dance, and Libertyville High School, Carmel Street Scenes.
We also support Rosalind Franklin University and Lake Forest College. They get discounts. We do a lot of fundraising—Cups for a cause—with a lot of different organizations. We try to be good steward in the community, because without the community, we don’t exist. We’re swirling gratitude for the community and our customers.
In all honesty, one of our greatest partnerships is with the Lake Bluff/Lake Forest Chamber. We were recently involved with the Comedy Night, we love to do the Chamber’s holiday party–it gives us an opportunity to make connections and get introduced to others in the business community. And we love being on the Shopping and Dining Guide each year. The Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber has been a really amazing partnership for us.
LFLBC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
ST: So, as I mentioned, my husband Joe died from cardiac arrest in 2011, but we wanted him to be a part of Suzy’s Swirl. So, we developed the Big Joe Challenge earlier this year. Customers were invited to have 64 ounces of product and 8 ounces of topping, and they had to finish in 20 minutes. If they did, they got a t-shirt and were recognized on our wall of fame. If they didn’t finish, we asked them to donate $20 to the American Heart Association. We held it on Joe’s birthday, Saturday, March 9, and we raised over $1,600 for the American Heart Association with the help and support of the community.
KW: We say it’s the power of a cup…it could change someone’s life, or it could support something that will save a life. We consider how our cups really can transform a life…great cups, great causes.