MADE in Lake County: Sue Tierno of Suzy’s Swirl

Lake Bluff, IL

MADE in Lake County is part of a paid partnership.

Welcome to MADE in Lake County! MADE introduces you to the people and stories behind local Lake County businesses. Today we met Sue Tierno, owner of Suzy’s Swirl located in Lake Bluff. Suzy’s Swirl just turned two years old this month, and they are celebrating with “Swirling Goodness!”

MADE in Lake County, Sue Tierno

Suzy’s Swirl was the hard work of Sue and Sue’s sister Kathleen Wood. Sue and Kathleen built their business with a true heart and passion amid heartbreaking personal tragedy. The dream for Suzy’s Swirl began with a conversation between Kathleen and Sue’s husband, Joe Tierno.

Kathleen had 30 years of success in the restaurant industry with a track record for building profitable restaurant companies, and Joe had over 25 years in working in contracting. Both had the goal to start a thriving business that the family could create and grow with. In 2011, Kathleen and Joe began to turn their dreams into a reality.

On October 1, 2011, Joe unexpectedly passed away leaving Sue, their four children, and the business Joe and Kathleen had started to begin behind. The loss of Joe pushed Kathleen and Sue to build this dream together. The business reinstated Sue’s successful career in Sales and Marketing and eventually included Sue’s daughter Jen as a partner as well with Jen’s experience with Retail Management. Together these 2 sisters built their American dream and Joe’s vision into Suzy’s Swirl.

Suzy’s Swirl Mission Statement reads:

“Re-ignite the American Dream by being the absolute best “famchise” for frozen goodness, exceptional service, and active community involvement.”

Suzy's Swirl, Lake Bluff
Photo provided by Suzy’s Swirl

Please tell me a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? When did you settle into your home in Lake County? Did you work for a company prior to opening Suzy’s Swirl?

I grew up in Addison Illinois, I am the youngest of 4, and when I turned 16, my family moved to Bloomingdale, Illinois. My husband Joe and I married when we were 23 and moved to McHenry, Illinois, in 1985. My Most important job has been Mom and Wife. I am the proud mother of 4 beautiful and intelligent kids: Jen, Joe, Jim, and Julie, 16. Yes, it is a mouthful!!

My husband’s side of the family is Italian, and mine is Irish. He wanted our oldest daughter to be named Maria, and although lovely, I just couldn’t! Our youngest daughter’s middle name is Marie! That’s as close to Maria as we got!! Before Suzy’s Swirl, I worked for the Johnsburg School District with children Pre-K to 2nd Grade! Joe and I went to the same High School, Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. We met when we were 16, started dating at 18, and married at 23! Joe and I were married for 26 years when Joe unexpectedly passed away in October of 2011.

What was the catalyst that started your business?

Initially, my sister, Kathy, Joe, and I were going to open a Chicago Food fast/casual shop. Chicago Dogs, Beef, and Meatballs. My sister Kathy has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years, and Joe had been in the HVAC for over 30 years. The three of us have always talked about owning our own place. When Joe passed away, we took a break for a bit.

In January-February of 2012, Kathy and I started talking about [opening a restaurant] again. We couldn’t find a place for the Chicago Food concept, and we had been eating a lot of Frozen Yogurt. After a lot of research and sampling, other yogurt places, Kathy and I came up with Suzy’s Swirl concept.

Has it been difficult starting your own business while raising your family? What have been the biggest challenges?

I will not lie; yes, it has been difficult starting my own business and still raise a family! It has been a balancing act becoming a great juggler and wearing many different hats. The biggest challenge is trying to be there for both my business and kids. If I could add two more hours to the day, that would be so helpful!

Through this, all I am learning, whatever doesn’t get done today will still be there tomorrow. Plus, it’s okay if the house isn’t spotless and the laundry is not put away. My #1 priority has and always will be my family. The silver lining in all of this is that it is a family-owned business.

Suzy's Swirl


What is your favorite part of your job?

It’s hard to have just one favorite part of my job! I love working in the store, meeting new customers, and welcoming back the returning customers. I also really enjoy getting to know and work with our crew. We’ve committed to teaching, coaching, and leading them to work for a successful company. Plus, I really believe that we serve a quality product. Our Yogurt, Gelato, and Sorbetto are AWESOME!

What is most important to you to make sure your customers know?

We have our mission statement on the wall, right when you walk in.

We are committed to Swirling Goodness in a high-quality product, exceptional customer service, and cleanliness, Swirling Greatness in living the American Dream and creating jobs, careers, and franchising, and finally Swirling Gratitude for each and every customer who walks into Suzy’s Swirl!

We are not just a restaurant in the community we want to be THE communities restaurant! We are that extension of family, friends, and community!

What do you do to recharge?

I have various ways to recharge! I really recharge going to Church each Sunday. It’s great getting an hour to sit still, pray, be surrounded by friends, family, and genuine peace and love. I also like to read, try new restaurants and spend time with my family and friends! The best time is 10:00 p.m. when both stores are closed, and I can climb into bed and relax!

How do you balance your family and work life?

I try my best to balance my work life and home life, although it doesn’t always work. I try not to beat myself up if I am late to a soccer game just as long as I get there. I do my best to communicate with my kids what my schedule is and what their schedule is. I also try to have family dinners still. To find balance, I think you have to give yourself time to figure it all out and be kind to yourself. Just like those little books say, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

Suzy's Swirl
Mompreneur of the Month {August 2014} Suzy's Swirl Gurnee, IL

Suzy’s Swirl
703 W. Rockland Rd., Lake Bluff

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Disclosure: Suzy’s Swirl is our featured Business of the Month. This series is part of a paid promotion partnership with Little Lake County.  If you are interested in featuring your locally-owned business in our series, please contact the sales team.

MADE in Lake County: Sue Tierno of Suzy\'s Swirl
About Stephanie 12 Articles
Stephanie is a wife and mother of 2 girls, Molly (02/11) and Lily (01/12). Stephanie grew up in the northwest suburbs and moved to Chicago in Wrigleyville area where she resided for a decade before moving to Lake County and becoming a homeowner. Stephanie is in love with the simple moments with her little family and enjoys blowing off steam from the daily grind (or her daughters extra toddler tantrum days) with running, wine, supportive family,and amazing friends.

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