As a newspaper, we have an opportunity to bring people together for a common good. To inspire and foster positive news presented by our readers that lifts people up in the communities we serve.
Starting in 2020, the staff at the Fillmore County Journal coordinated the first-ever recognition for the Business Person of the Year.
The newspaper publishes a form to fill out and submit in-person or by mail, along with providing an online option for readers to nominate a business person in the newspaper coverage area to be recognized for this distinguished honor.
The 2020 Business Person of the Year was Todd Jones, owner of Ace Hardware in Spring Valley, Minn. For the 2021 Business Persons of the Year, Alex and Jenn Slifka, located in Spring Valley, Minn., were recognized for their revitalization efforts in the downtown area, with their continuous business expansion involving Chateau de Chic Salon & Spa, Chic by Chateau, Some Like It Hot, and Stellar 181 Taphouse. In 2022, we presented this award to Jerry and Nancy Kraus, owners of Kraus Oil in Spring Grove and Kraus Oil and Country Store in Caledonia.
The 2023 Business Person of the Year is Suzanne Gardner, owner of Some Like It Hot in Spring Valley, Minn.
Suzanne’s story is one of adaptability, persistence, and a lifelong love of baking.
While her business on Broadway in downtown Spring Valley has become a household name for at least six years, Suzanne has been baking masterpieces for decades.
Suzanne, who grew up in Rochester, Minn., has always had a love for baking. She recalls while serving in the Navy from 1975 to 1979, stationed in California, when she made a pumpkin raisin bread for her fellow servicemen and women, they started offering to buy her baked goods. That wasn’t her intention, but it seemed to point her in the right direction.
After serving in the Navy, she stayed in San Diego, Calif., and trained with an Italian baker. She eventually opened her own baking and catering company in the San Diego area.
Suzanne said she learned a lot during those early years of running a business, which she feels helped her along the way.
She recalls a bricklayer who would come into her bakery and catering business in California, and he told her it took attempting to run five businesses before he got it right — something she has never forgotten.
Fortunately for Spring Valley, Suzanne brought her love for baking and business experience to the community when she moved to the area in 1996. Her mother grew up in Spring Valley, so she felt this would be a good place to call home.
Growing a Business
For anyone considering starting up a business, Suzanne said, “It’s very hard work. It takes a few years to grow a business.” Every day, she arrives at work before 5 a.m., and works until at least 4:30 p.m. – some days can be longer. She keeps very busy operating her bakery business along with providing catering services for special events like weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties. For many of her events, she is serving upwards of 250 people.
Suzanne feels that businesses working together is important, which has become a part of the culture in downtown in Spring Valley. Collaboration is key.
What does Suzanne enjoy most about what she does at Some Like It Hot? Finding new recipes. Putting menus together. Helping people with things like picking out gifts and ordering cakes.
Her business has become known as more of a boutique bakery, like something you see in Europe. She sells a lot of scones, along with salads, sandwiches and rice bowls. Her pastries and cookies are popular, too. But her scones take the cake.
What do patrons think about Suzanne and her business?
She received multiple nominations for this year’s Business Person of the Year award.
“Suzanne initiated a community and area wide collection for an Amish family that suffered the tragic loss of children in an accident. She was a catalyst for giving among many. She used her business location as a collection point, and coordinated and participated in an overwhelming effort,” shared one of her patrons.
Another patron shared that she makes “donations to family, friends and the community to help enhance the lives of residents in the community.”
“She is very community-minded, but stays in the background working hard to make things special for others. If not for her, the community may not have come together as it did for our Amish neighbors who lost their children,” another patron said of Suzanne’s selflessness and leadership.
Her patrons describe her as “very caring and devoted to the community” and “humble, big-hearted and community-focused.”
Some Like It Hot is more than a bakery. More than a place to enjoy coffee and conversation. It’s a place where people find a sense of community, thanks to Suzanne Gardner.
Suzanne has discovered a recipe for success, and her customers think that’s pretty sweet.
To see the rest of the nominees and what nominators had to say about them, look to page 5 of today’s newspaper. To be nominated is an honor in itself.