If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city.
This week, we met with Jennifer Sweden Saxton, the owner-operator of Sisters Food Services. If Sisters sounds familiar to you, you may have seen the name around town on the side of their food truck or stopped by their cafeteria location at Great Basin College. I (Anthony Crosby) was looking forward to speaking with Jennifer about Sisters, mostly to dive deep into the world of operational food services; however, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there’s more than meets the taste buds when it comes to Jennifer and her business. Jennifer’s pride behind her work comes from seeing the people of our community find health and prosperity from what they eat. Food is a tremendous part of life, and it can have a positive or negative effect on who we are as individuals and a community. Yes, Jennifer can make a tasty burger or decorate a beautiful cake out of the kitchen of Sisters, but as you will read, her big drive comes from helping people find nutritional success at meal time. Take it away, Jennifer!
“Health and food have always been a passion of mine since I was in high school. My family, on both sides, were on the heavier side, not very healthy. The men on my father’s side have all died of cancer or heart attacks. When I was about fourteen, I figured I needed to take care of myself. I worked at a pharmacy (before starting Sisters) and I lost many customers due to health issues that always came back to if their diet was better, if they had somebody to help them prep food, if they had someone to sit down and go over what their dietary needs were, things may have ended differently. I also have a step-son who is a type one diabetic with Celiac disease. It always just seemed to go back to food! So, I thought if I could help some of my friends, family, and elderly customers meal prep, maybe I can make a difference in their health and how they felt. After doing some investigation, I found the cheapest way to do this was to open a food truck.”
“The entire business started because that’s what I wanted to do (assist people with their dietary health), and that led to everything else. One of the gals from Great Basin College had lunch at our truck, October of 2017, and then told me the GBC cafeteria was open for use and asked if Sisters wanted to put a bid on it. We got a copy of the contract, and it was very overwhelming. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into it because I’m not a licensed chef, food is just a passion and desire for me. I didn’t place a bid at first; however, in January of 2018 they emailed me and told me nobody had bid on the space and asked if I wanted to come back and talk with them. They simplified the contract, took a bunch of things out, and let us negotiate more with what would be going on. My final bid was accepted, it’s been fantastic, and as far as I know, they’re happy with us being in here!”
Elko area, did you know you can sit down with Jennifer, and she will help you create a personal menu that’s best for your needs? She’ll even work with health aspects such as allergies and intolerances when it comes to her recommendations. Jennifer, as someone who is doing a lot to help keep many people in our community healthily fed, from where does your spark come that allows you to get up and do this every day? “I don’t know if I would be as cheerful going to work at four-thirty in the morning for anybody but myself. It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I mean, I’m never going to get rich from running a cafeteria and food truck, but that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about all the different people we’ve been able to help. People have a place to go, now, where they can order gluten-free cakes; that one thing alone has made a huge difference for people. I love sitting down with people, hearing their stories, and figuring out what we can do to help them with their health because you eat to live; you don’t live to eat. Everything you take in changes your composition, so you have to remember that for you to be the best you can be.”
Jennifer, what would you say is a big goal for you as you continue to establish yourself as a dining option both at GBC and through your food truck? “I want to become somebody’s “go-to place” when it comes to where they choose to go for food. However, people in Elko have their “habits” of where they like to go eat, so it can be hard getting into that group, especially since we don’t serve dinner. Furthermore, being at the college, we’re not in a location that’s passable by very much drive-thru traffic; people must go out of their way to come to eat here. However, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else now that we’re here. People can come in anytime, and we can talk to face-to-face about giving them exactly what they want as far as food options or even if they want to host a party in our space; we can do that too!”
Finally, Jennifer, what is your perspective on the current food and health culture in our community? “Our community is based, one way or another, around mining, and unfortunately, it’s not the healthiest profession; it’s just not. You see so many people start their careers young and ambitious; ten years later they’re overweight and sick. If our miners paid more attention to this aspect of themselves and did things such as meal prepped, they could live a better life in that industry. However, it’s hard to do that for yourself when you’re working so hard and so many hours, and you don’t have time to do research. It can be easy to forget to take care of yourself and not make it a priority. So, if people can slow down for just a minute and reach out to people like me who want to help, it would make a big difference. We are all a work in progress. We all have goals, and I want to help people achieve every one of those goals; we have to keep going forward.”
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See you around, Elko!