This weekend Al Johnson, the Door County entrepreneur who put goats on his roof and in doing so helped bring tourists to Door County passed away. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant was almost always on visitors “must go” list since he opened his doors in 1949. In honor of this iconic man who did so much to promote Door County as a tourist destination, we are providing a few links that will only scratch the surface of what he meant to Sister Bay and the Door peninsula:
His restaurant was one of northern Door County’s largest employers. Countless area kids paid for their college educations with paychecks earned beneath Al’s famous grass roof. When former workers fell on hard times, he found a place for them, even if they had once left on bad terms.
His staff benefitted from the kind of security and perks rarely seen in the restaurant or tourism industries, helping employees make a life and raise a family in Northern Door. The tips earned by his waitresses have long been the envy of colleagues at other establishments. Those workers have spread their income around the village and the county, filling bars with dirndls (to the delight of many a visitor), and spending on groceries, clothing, and homes.
And finally, an audio podcast interview with his great friend Norb Blei that took place in February of 2007. For anyone under the impression that Al Johnson was a reserved, stoic person, listen to this interview for some stories about a life that was lived with gusto, grace and more than a bit of mischief.
Our thoughts go out to Al’s family and his many dear friends.