Over the past several years, business owners have faced so many challenges – a pandemic, supply chain issues, and labor shortages, to name a few.
In 2020, the staff at the Fillmore County Journal coordinated the first-ever “Business Person of the Year” award in collaboration with nominations from readers. This was an engaging community effort.
The first recipient of this award was Todd Jones, the owner of Ace Hardware in Spring Valley, Minn.
In the months that followed his award recognition, Jones shared that he had an amazing number of customers from the region walk into his store and congratulate him and his team on receiving this award.
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.
And, that’s why we’ve continued to move forward with the “Business Person of the Year,” now in its second year.
As nominations rolled in for the next recipient of this award, it became clear that Spring Valley was on the brink of another deserving business owner.
And, this award recipient is probably no surprise to the Spring Valley community.
Drum roll please…
The 2021 Business Persons of the Year are Alex and Jenn Slifka, owners of multiple businesses in downtown Spring Valley, Minn.
Their story isn’t necessarily a business story. It’s more of a love story. A love of family and community.
For Slifkas, it’s been somewhat of an unplanned journey.
Jenn knew what she wanted before she even met Alex. In 2002, she celebrated at her graduation ceremony at Kingsland High School on a Saturday. On Sunday, she had her graduation open house, and on Monday she started the 10-month beauty school program at Rochester School of Cosmetology in Rochester, Minn. At age 18, Jenn knew she wanted to own her own beauty salon some day. Her first job in the beauty business was with Great Clips in Rochester.
By age 21, she was clipping along and making her dream a reality in downtown Spring Valley, Minn.
Then 2006 came along. She needed some remodeling work done at her salon Chateau de Chic Salon & Spa, so she became connected with Alex. He had been working on construction sites since he was 16 years old, and he was handy and willing to drive down from Rochester to Spring Valley to work on Jenn’s project.
Eventually, Alex started getting his haircut by Jenn at her salon every couple weeks.
Those haircuts turned into date nights.
And, in 2008, Alex and Jenn became husband and wife.
Since their unity, they’ve been in growth mode. They’ve grown their business and their family.
While Jenn continued to add boutique gift items for sale at Chateau de Chic Salon & Spa, when the building directly to the north came available (the old Verizon store) in 2018, she jumped on the opportunity. After quite a bit of remodeling, Chic by Chateau was born. A boutique full of fashionable clothing, décor, and accessories. A perfect marriage to the stylings of Chateau de Chic Salon & Spa.
Then, the Spring Valley Tribune building became available in 2019, and Alex and Jenn acquired that property. With Jenn’s mother, Suzanne Gardner, sharing her talents and years of experience in the catering business, Spring Valley now had an option for high quality desserts, coffees, and cakes. Some Like It Hot added another element to the growing Slifka mini-mall.
The last piece of the puzzle came to life when the accounting office just north of Some Like It Hot became available in 2019. This would become Stellar 181 Taphouse, which opened in mid-2021.
For Alex, this was his calling. He had spent years working as a property manager, remodeler, and wood worker. He had flipped houses. He had taken on many remodeling projects over the years. But this was different. Reflecting on the launch of this new business venture, he said it was one of the hardest things he had ever done.
Needless to say, Stellar 181 Taphouse has made a splash. They put Spring Valley on the map, drawing crowds from the tri-state area.
The end result. Seven employees at Chateau de Chic Salon & Spa. One employee at Chic by Chateau. Six employees at Some Like It Hot. Nine employees at Stellar 181 Taphouse. And, the Slifka kids help out washing dishes in the kitchen, too. That’s a total of 25 people working at these four businesses seamlessly connected from one end to the other.
Add all of these businesses together, and the math looks pretty good for any community striving to grow their downtown. Along with four full storefronts on South Broadway, these four businesses employ 25 locals, counting the entrepreneur duo Alex and Jenn.
What does it take to run all of these businesses?
When asked how many hours per week Alex and Jenn work, they replied “non-stop.”
At ages, 40 and 37, Alex and Jenn have accomplished some outstanding things for their family and their community.
And, while the Slifkas do work non-stop, they do get to spend a ton of quality time with their sons. Kellan is 12, Jude is nine, and Merrick is three.
Alex humbly shared that many people have thanked him and his wife for the work they are doing for downtown Spring Valley and the community as a whole. He added that, “We are doing this for our family, and we hope the community joins us along the way.”
What people say about Alex and Jenn Slifka
One patron shared, “Alex and Jenn have gone above and beyond to promote the downtown business section of Spring Valley. Their vision for small town residents and taste in products and merchandise are perfect. They have kept our downtown alive and thriving! And are drawing people from other communities, as well.”
Another supporter said, “Her (Jenn’s) dreams and entrepreneurial spirit has provided Spring Valley with several great, new business in retail, service, restaurant and specialty. They’ve revitalized downtown Spring Valley and they were instrumental in procuring space for the new craft brewery in town (Hop & Barrel).”
A longtime resident of Spring Valley offered, “Jenn and Alex are the most outstanding entrepreneurs I have ever seen in Spring Valley, and I have lived in Spring Valley 50-plus years. Not only do they come up with fabulous ideas, but they make them happen, over and over. Whether it’s putting on an avant-garde fashion show or expanding their businesses two-fold, from hair salon/spa to boutique to a taphouse that is like no other. I have known Jenn for over 15 years. I was at the open house of her first salon, and I have been a customer ever since. I have watched her move her business, expand her business – more than once, watch her support family businesses as well as other businesses in the downtown area. All the while her partner, Alex, was there coming up with ideas and making it happen with his phenomenally creative skills in woodworking, construction, and everything in between. I know both of their minds are in continuous motion – always thinking how they can make things better for their customers.”
What motivates the Slifkas?
One person said, “She has a genuine love of the community and desire to bring trendy and fun options locally. Shop local is a big mantra with her.”
“Jenn and Alex like to see people happy and having fun. I think that coupled with their creative drive is what keeps them in constant motion,” shared another patron.
And, another supporter offered, “Giving to the community. Raising their family here. Their belief that people should buy local – they strive to keep people in Spring Valley for their shopping, dining, entertaining…”
What words would best describe Alex and Jenn Slifka?
“Incredibly talented. Creative beyond belief. Smart in business management. They are visionaries,” said one person.
Another Slifka fan offered, “Community minded entrepreneur.”
“Hard-working individuals that have a vision of growth for our downtown,” added another.
The success of our small town businesses requires great leadership. The Slifkas are leaders in their community, and it shows. People recognize their efforts and they want for them to succeed.
To see the rest of the nominees and what nominators had to say about them, look to page 10 of today’s newspaper. To be nominated is an honor in itself.