Rubicon Global, a provider of waste, recycling and smart city solutions to businesses and governments worldwide, announced Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik has been recognized as the Best Small Business in America, based on public voting. The business will receive a check for $10,000 as the winner.
Based in Sister Bay, Wis., Al Johnson’s has been serving authentic Swedish and mainstream American comfort food since 1949. In the early 1970s, when the restaurant was looking to expand, it pulled in some authenticity from its Scandinavian roots and had a grass and sod roof built in Norway and shipped to the U.S.
Grass and sod roofs are long known for absorbing rainwater, providing superior natural and sustainable insulation, and creating an ecosystem and habitat for wildlife. The signature grass roof of Al Johnson’s has helped reduce spending on energy and heat and has become a landmark staple and example in the community, where even the local goats walk the roof. Additionally, Al Johnson’s has earned certification in Wisconsin’s Travel Green Program for its special grass and sod roof.
The second annual Best Small Business in America contest drew hundreds of entries across the U.S. Leaders from Rubicon judged the entries along with executives from Toast, a growing restaurant management platform in the U.S., and MINDBODY, a technology platform for the fitness, wellness and beauty services industries, to whittle the initial entries down to the final 15, which were then open to public voting to decide the winner.
Rubicon asked small businesses to tell their stories on what differentiates them from the rest and how they are using business as a force for social or environmental good. Businesses were encouraged to list the challenges that they have faced and overcome to make the business successful as well as socially and environmentally conscious.
“Al Johnson’s is a prime example of a small business taking advantage of its history and integrating a sustainable solution that yields financial and environmental benefits, along with demonstrating sustainability in action for its patrons,” said David Rachelson, vice president of sustainability for Rubicon Global, in a statement.
"It is an incredible honor to be named the Best Small Business in America by Rubicon Global. We were truly gratified to be a finalist among such an incredible group of other small businesses across the United States, businesses where green business practices, community-mindedness and responsiveness as an employer are guiding principles in operations,” said Lars Johnson, co-owner of Al Johnson’s, in a statement.
In 2019, the restaurant will celebrate its 70th anniversary. The founder, Al Johnson, was a Swedish immigrant and a World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne.
“We still operate by the principles my father laid out so many years ago. As such, we will be donating the $10,000 prize we are being awarded as the Best Small Business in America by Rubicon Global and giving that to the Wisconsin Humane Society, thereby helping us extend and enrich our existing program of supporting good local works in the arts, social services, sustainability and community programs,” concluded Lars Johnson.