FAIRFAX, Minn.— Mark and Nancy Gohnert are the new owners of Smokey Hollow restaurant, a fixture in Fairfax since 1872. They purchased the business and updated the interior with help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Microenterprise Loan Program.
Long a bastion of the breakfast crowd, Smokey Hollow specializes in homestyle cooking for breakfast and lunch, with daily specials, hot coffee and tempting treats like homemade bread pudding and caramel rolls.
“We believe in bringing good people together over good food and coffee,” Nancy said. “We’re proud to call this small town home and its residents family, and we’re looking forward to meeting even more people as business owners here in Fairfax.”
Nancy started waitressing when she was 13, and owned the Home Town Café in Buffalo Lake for several years before selling it in 1999 to devote more time to family. Before becoming one of its owners, Nancy was a cook and waitress at Smokey Hollow. She holds an accounting technician degree and a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement.
Small business ownership is familiar to Mark too. He has a background in engineering and started his own company in 2015 handling paperwork and civil engineering prints for gravel pits. Mark also had many roles at Home Town Café, including cooking, repairs, staffing and payroll. The Gohnerts’ four children — Matthew, Tyler, Joanna and Luke — all work at the restaurant as well.
“These two definitely have the experience to run a restaurant, but they also have the heart,” said SWIF Economic Development Officer Jackie Turner. “SWIF is happy to help them pursue their dreams and keep this café in the community.”
Loan programs have been a key function of SWIF since its inception to support communities and businesses throughout southwest Minnesota. In 2001, microlending was added to existing programs as a tool to support small businesses and people looking for self-employment opportunities by providing market-rate loans.
Microloan clients receive free technical assistance from SWIF staff — who all have personal business experience — to improve their business management skills. Areas of support include business planning and reading financials, QuickBooks training, marketing assistance and other training opportunities for the life of the loan.
This microloan program receives funding assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact SWIF at 800-594-9480, 320-587-4848 or [email protected].
Southwest Initiative Foundation is an independent community foundation supported by individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. Its mission is connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has contributed more than $75 million through its grant and loan programs. Its business finance programs have helped start or expand more than 700 businesses, which have created or retained more than 8,600 jobs. SWIF has also established 26 community affiliates and more than 100 school, donor-advised and other funds, as well as 16 Early Childhood Initiative coalitions to support young children. SWIF has received 1,730 acres of farmland through our Keep It Growing℠ farmland giving program. In 2016, SWIF launched the Grow Our Own Initiative to align its work and ensure all southwest Minnesota kids have the best start to life. Southwest Initiative Foundation is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To learn more, visit www.swifoundation.org.
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