Rubicon’s 2018 “Best Small Business in America” Winner Is…

Drumroll, please…

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Boutik have just been crowned Rubicon’s 2018 winner!

Happy Small Business Saturday! One of the major ways we are celebrating is by giving bragging rights and $10,000 to the 2018 Best Small Business in America, a unique local landmark successfully merging sustainability with Swedish traditions.

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, the fastest-growing restaurant management platform in the U.S.; and MINDBODY, the leading 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.  

Since the early 1970s, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant is a place where you can find authentic Swedish meatballs, a family atmosphere, and goats grazing grass on their signature roof. Yes, Al Johnson’s signature grass roof is peppered with adorable animals for patrons to enjoy. A landmark in the area, the restaurant took what was originally a prank, and turned into a Sister Bay staple.

More than just a gimmick, these goats have helped earn Al Johnson’s a certification in Wisconsin’s Travel Green Program for their special sod roof. 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 implementation of this sustainable practice has helped minimize the restaurant’s energy and water impact over the years. Helping move the needle for Wisconsin’s statewide drive to live more sustainably, the Al Johnson’s team also sources local ingredients to help make international dishes.

Outside the restaurant, our 2018 winner uses their on-property retention pond to supply water to surrounding areas and cut water usage where possible. Inside the restaurant, the building uses Energy Star Qualified windows. These small sustainable practices have made a big impact on their footprint and on their community.

“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,” Lars Johnson, co-founder of Al Johnson’s concluded.

Not a local but want to join in on the fun? Al Johnson’s grazing goats have gone viral and are available for a live stream on their “goat cam.”

We congratulate Al Johnson’s on their win from the hundreds of entries we received this year!


If you are a small business and are looking to get started on a sustainability program, find out more here!

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