The Johnson Family Named Entrepreneurs of the Year

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) announced today that The Johnson Family, owners of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik (, are the winners of the annual Door County Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The announcement came this afternoon during the DCEDC annual investors meeting at Stone Harbor Resort & Conference Center in Sturgeon Bay.

Founded by family patriarch Al Johnson in 1949, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant has been a mainstay of success. The entrepreneurial spirit that began with Al continues in his children, Lars, Rolf and Annika Johnson, who have been able to find the appropriate blend of innovation and historic nostalgia that represents Door County extremely well.

Al’s wife Ingert became a lifelong partner whose business and customer savvy matched Al’s. With a flair for style and tradition, plus deep roots in Scandinavian heritage, Ingert lead the design and décor which is part of the company’s unmistakable and unique brand.

Al Johnson was a larger than life individual who was loved by many in Door County, and who has been deeply missed since his death in 2010. The transition of the business to his children was rather smooth, mainly because they all have been working in the restaurant since they were children, and had such wonderful examples in their parents.

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik has firmly established itself as one of the most iconic and recognizable restaurants in Door County and the state of Wisconsin. Al Johnson’s serves over 3,000 people per day July through October. They have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and numerous restaurant magazines, travel magazines, newspapers, The Food Network and The Travel Network.

The place “with the goats on the roof” has become a treasured institution in Sister Bay that has seen exceptional business growth during its history. Experiencing 25% sales growth over the past three years, Al’s now sells their famous lingonberries, pancake mix, cookies and more online, and are expanding that product line to grocery and retail shelf space across the Midwest. A new 5,000 square foot production and warehouse facility currently under construction will assist in expanding this part of their business. Their growth is also exhibited in a popular new outdoor serving space in a refurbished, authentic Scandinavian building.

This business directly influences positive economic development in Door County by their historical, yet innovative local, national and international presence. This business directly helped put, and keeps, Door County on the map.

The Johnson Family has also proven to be exceptional corporate citizens. Al Johnson’s recently received Travel Green certification from the state of Wisconsin. Al’s contributes more than $100,000 annually to non-profit groups, including the Go Bo Foundation, founded to help children with life-threatening medical conditions. They have also donated to many worthwhile causes, charities, schools and raffles both in and outside Door County with gift cards, gift baskets and certificates.  

“It is our extreme pleasure to recognize The Johnson Family with the Entrepreneur of the Year award,” said DCEDC Executive Director Caleb Frostman.  “Al Johnson and his family have built an indelible and iconic business. Their brand is famous to most everyone that knows of or has ever visited Door County. It truly is a story of American innovation, entrepreneurship and achievement like few others. We are excited to watch their company’s growth and we wish them nothing but continued success.”

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award celebrates those individuals who have taken the initiative to start and grow a successful small business in Door County. Eligible businesses include those with fewer than 50 full time employees, exhibiting exciting growth potential and that have at least three years of successful business experience. Last year’s winners were David Eliot and Madeline Harrison, owners of Peninsula Publishing & Distribution.

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