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Over the years, we have been asked so many questions about our journey of creating, developing and opening a family business from scratch. The questions span from things about our family and friends to how we've cultivated such wonderful managers, crew members, and customers. People ask about our community activities and how we pick our flavors, toppings, and sauces! We loved these questions so much that we actually started a weekly blog by Sue called "Sundaes with Sue” (now featuring special editions with one of our crew members, "Sundaes with Steve").

In addition to asking about our happiest highlights, however, our lovely customers also like to ask about some of our "not-so-awesome" highlights. The sum of our highs and lows are therefore captured here, and like many things in life, (and much of what we provide in store,) our best and worst experiences come in the form of a double-flavored swirl.

Before leaping into our history, we started to reminisce on the many chapters of our Suzy's journey, and we distilled our greatest sources of success points into four HUGE “aha” moments:

Swirling Gratitude for Our Family
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who loved and supported us even before day one!  Sue and I will never be able to adequately express our thanks to Jen, Joe, Jim, Julie, Keegan, Joe Sr., Lucy, Mary and Kerry.  We will always be thankful to Julie for everything she did to help us open and grow and for all her contributions as a crew member and shift leader. We will be forever thankful to Jen, our partner and co-founder who trailblazed so many of our cultural traditions, holiday celebrations, and social media successes, and trained and led our most successful swirlers. Jen’s legacy will remain the DNA of Suzy’s Swirl forever. 

Thank You
Swirling Gratitude for Our Friends
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who have always been there for us in our highlights and our not-so-awesome highlights. We were blessed to have friends who helped us in so many ways to open and build our business. To mention them all would take pages and pages; however we always remember their unwavering support, faith, and confidence. We thank them frequently for the right words at the right times. 

Swirling Gratitude for our Amazing Team 
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of Leaders and Swirlers, the real people who make the “magic” of Suzy’s a reality. Over the past six years, we have met so many amazing, wonderful young people passionate about Suzy’s. We have been truly fortunate to work with the best of the best. We owe the world to the Swirlers who contributed to our success and supported our gowth through their love of Suzy’s, and we are honored to know that we were able to make their first job their right job. We are proud to see their successes in life, school, sports, and business during and after their Suzy’s experience. Today, we are so grateful for our leadership team of Caitlyn, Laine, Jenelle, Becca, and Lindsey who have forged new paths in expanded areas of catering, business development, marketing, event management, and exceptional customer experiences.

Swirling Gratitude for our Customers, Community Partners
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and suppliers, who are the true secret in our swirling power. We will never have enough ways to say thank you to every customer that swirls with us when it is 90 degrees, - 20 degrees and every degree in between. We love celebrating the ups and downs of life and the happiness each day brings with our customers.

Suppliers are the back bone of our experience! We are grateful for their support, innovation and mutual trust in our partnerships. We continually appreciate their excellence, as they go above and beyond throughout our continued growth! 

Our community partners actually have their own page on the Suzy’s website because there are so many to mention and thank for years of support. We are so grateful to every partner for believing in and supporting us!

We look forward to you enjoying the highlights and the “not-so-awesome” highlights of our journey. 

With Swirling Gratitude, Kathleen and Sue! 

A Story of Frozen Happiness,
Family & New Beginnings! 

Chapter 2011-2012

Suzy’s Swirl is truly a story of the American dream in its triumph, heart, and passion. It is also one of family, brought together to take a dream and make it a reality despite of personal tragedy.

Suzy’s Swirl started as a conversation between Kathleen Wood and her brother-in-law, Joe Tierno, over 25 years ago. Both been passionate about the restaurant industry since they were kids, growing up in the Chicago suburbs. In 2011, Kathleen and Joe decided to take their conversation to the next level and begin making their discussion into a reality.

The partnership was ideal. Kathleen had over 30 years of experience as a restaurant industry leader, holding a long and successful track record of building profitable restaurant companies. Joe had over 25 years of contracting expertise. The two agreed that, beginning in 2012, building the next great restaurant chain would become their focus.


However, on October 1st, 2011, Joe passed away unexpectedly, leaving his wife, Sue (Kathleen's sister), and their four children. For Kathleen, the loss only served to intensify her mission to make their dream a reality.  This picture is a family picture taken at the wedding of Joe and Sue's nephew, two weeks before Joe’s passing – Joe is the smiling man on the far right side.

The journey toward developing Suzy’s Swirl presented Sue with an opportunity to re-energize her successful career in sales and marketing. Together, the two sisters found a new passion, establishing a vision of creating a new model of business that would make the pursuit of the American Dream affordable and accessible. As the journey continued, Sue’s daughter Jen become a partner in the business, bringing her successful background in retail management experience to the growing team.

Our Journey
Chapter 2012 - Open and Off to The Swirling!


  • We OPENED - August 4, 2012 - our first cusotmers arrived 15 minutes after we unlocked the doors, and we never turned back.  

  • Our first year was fast and swirling!  

  • We met so many new people, and the community support of Gurnee was amazing!

  • We were grateful for all the pre-training at the Holiday Inn. Especially impressive was that our original crew of 25 swirlers had a collective restaurant experience of only six months.

  • We developed an army of Swirlers who became awesome sous chefs, prepping thousands of pounds of all-fresh fruit. They NEVER even cut their fingers! 


Fun Facts: 

  • Since we were just starting out, we took the towels to wash and dry at home each night. Now we have a great partner to take care of that for us! 

What we learned as a family and a team:

  • We had so many restaurant consultants in our family besides Kathleen - so many insights!

  • Sue’s amazing faith has been invaluable to our continued success.

  • Opening a concept from scratch is a roller coaster.

  • We have a well of gratitude for our swirlers and customers who have supported us every day! 

Chapter 2013 - Cups for a Cause Begins

This was the idea of Cups for a Cause: To donate a fixed portion of our proceeds to support great causes! 


  • Craig Stelz of the Chicago Bears joins the team to support the Big Joe Super Challenge.

  • Suzypalooza is launched to support to No Kid Hungry

  • Kathleen takes Suzy’s Story to the White House to promote women in foodservice

  • Sydnie and Morreen Bayles come in for our first Alex’s Lemonade Swirl

Fun Facts:

  • We continue the Big Joe Challenge for the American Heart Association to this day!

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Chapter 2014 - New Year - New Opening

big Big BIG News

  • June 2014 - Suzy’s Lake Bluff opens - SO excited to bring Suzy’s to Lake Bluff



  • Suzy’s Swirl is on Chicago’s Best with Brittany Payton

  • We are featured in Jim Knight’s Best selling book  -         Culture that Rocks!

  • Our management team is in place in both locations - Jen becomes our first General Manager

  • We finally stop bringing towels home every night!

What we learned as a family and team:

  • We learned we were all our leaks were financially, operationally and in Human Resources, and we began the painful process of fixing those leaks! 

Chapter 2015 - Big Ideas - Expanding Teams - Catering Services 


  • Suzy’s Catering and Events services officially launch!

  • Suzy’s start bringing Frozen Happiness to events like:  Lake Bluff Bluffinia Concert series, Intelligensia Bike Criterium.

  • Suzy’s continues to take part in Gurnee Days and Gurnee Events.

  • Suzy’s brings July 4th into our DNA while sponsoring and participating in local July 4th celebrations!

  • We partner with the College of Lake County to sponsor “Big Ideas,” their new entrepreneurial student competition.

Fun Facts: 

  • Since 2015 we have donated over $2,000.00 to College of Lake County's Big Ideas Competition to help young entrapeneauers grow their ideas! 

Chapter 2016 - Championship Teams - Community 


  • Our business is expanding (events, catering, fundraising, cups with a cause, and more!)

  • The Cubs win the World Series - We offer 108 minutes of FREE Suzy’s to Celebrate - it’s awesome!

  • We begin the process of expanding our yogurts and sorbettos to feature more “diet and lifestyle” diverse options

Suzy's became a huge part of the community:

  • LFHS Turnabout Dance

  • Street Scenes- Carmel High School

  • College of Lake County - Big Ideas Entrepreneur Competition

  • Lake Bluff Annual July 4th Parade

  • Bluffina

  • Trunk or Treat

  • JDRF Annual Walk 

  • Gurnee Days

  • So many more! (Many of which we continue today!)

Chapter 2017- One Door Opens and Another Door Closes - Goodbye, Gurnee! We love you!


  • We begin serving delivery, and everyone loves it!

  • Our customers nominated us for Business of the Year in Gurnee, and we Won!!! Special thanks to Karen from JDRF for nominating us. We are so grateful! 

  • We find the most AMAZING producer of craft yogurt, gelato and sorbetto.  A product partner we have been searching for since 2011!

  • We make the strategic decision to pivot and start producing our own retail product line.

Fun Facts:

  • We made the decision to not renew our lease in Gurnee - The facebook posts explains it all. We had a record turn out of Gurnee friends, customers and former crew members who visited us the last week-end we were open.

  • Today we still hear 3-5 times a week how much people miss the Gurnee location, which sat vacant after us until 2020. 

Chapter 2018 - Focus - Frozen Happiness - Retail


  • The team doubles downs on everything Suzy’s - Catering - Events - Social Media.

  • Sue starts her weekly blog - Sundaes with Sue!

  • Our Retail Product Line is launched - Frozen Happiness.

  • We launch our first Frozen Happiness distribution point with the Compass Group.

  • We become - ACDBE - DBE and WBE certified.

  • Product innovation continues with Suzy's Mega Ice Cream Sandwiches.

  • Suzy team members feature Suzy’s in three different college projects and each project recieves an A.

Fun Facts: 

  • We developed the entire Frozen Happiness retail line and after testing it for months with mixed results and very little traction we regroup - the product is amazing, but the name wasn't quite connecting. Thanks to our good friend Wendy, we changed the name to something very clever: Suzy’s Swirl!     

Chapter 2019 - Year of Acceleration - Cups with a Cause - Big Joe 


  • Suzy’s sponsored the premiere conference for the restaurant and hospitality industry - TDN2K -  Global Best Practices Conference.

  • Suzy’s was excited to share our Cups with a Cause at Global Best Practices!

  • Big Joe Challenge Day, featuring the Big Joe Competition on March 9th (Joe’s Birthday), had a great turnout!

  • Suzy’s is aggressively pursuing new opportunities for Suzy’s Swirl Retail Product Line

Fun Fact:

  • Suzy's Swirl won the 2019 WBENC Pitch Competition in Baltimore, MD  


And It's been a few years, but we'll recap 2020 and after one of these days! ;)

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