Start to Finish: Kathleen Wood
The co-owner of Suzy’s Swirl talks about the importance of establishing her concept as a neighborhood gathering spot.
Co-Owner, Suzy’s Swirl SUZY’S SWIRL
I unequivocally love the foodservice industry. Since I was 14 years old, being around this business has been my life. The local Italian restaurant in my town growing up was my first experience, and I held almost every job there, including cooking right alongside the grandma of the family-owned establishment. I then had a great opportunity to work for McDonald’s, and even though I never forecasted it to be a career, the industry became a passion for me. With McDonald’s, I started as a crewmember, and then became a crew leader, a trainer, and eventually a shift leader. My experiences as a teenager led me to pursue further education. I had a very clear understanding of the direction I wanted to go as a professional and was ready to motivate other people.
With Suzy’s Swirl, we want to reignite the American dream. My partners—my sister and my niece—started the brand in 2012 with the commitment to what we call “fami-tizing” the community. We are driven as a family operation to bring families together in the community in which we operate. I’ve had such a great opportunity to work as a consultant with several other brands prior to co-owning and operating Suzy’s Swirl, and what I loved most about working with each was being a part of how they grew.
My partners and I got together to put a brand into motion that would not simply be a brand for our family, but families all over in any community. Consultants generally have the stigma of not being able to walk the walk, but now with Suzy’s Swirl, I can do both; I can talk the talk, and I can walk the walk. We work very hard not to let just our product, but our relationship with the community define who we are as a brand. I would love to some day have over 100 families owning and operating Suzy’s Swirls in their communities, and I hope that through that we can change the model of how business owners and business operators work together. It’s been our vision from day one to be the community restaurant, to be a part of that fabric that generates our business. Without the community, we don’t exist.