The following are answers to The Foggiest Five, a set of questions asked to influential Long Islanders on the future of the region. This round features answers from Susan Axelrod, Chairwoman and founder of Love & Quiches Gourmet, a food service company based in Freeport, NY. The views presented are the author’s alone, and do not represent those of The Foggiest Idea:
1. What is your favorite part of living on Long Island?
I love being near the Ocean, hearing the waves, and walking on the beach. I was brought up in the Rockaways, and (since it was before the advent of air-conditioning) always feel asleep to the soothing sound of the ocean. Even though I now live in the city, we spend the summer on Fire Island where we have a summer home built on stilts. Being on a barrier island, you cannot get much closer to the water than having to take a ferry to get there!
2. What is our greatest regional challenge?
Changing gears to business, Long Island has a cul-de-sac status. Trucks don’t like to come here, a problem for a bakery manufacturing business such as ours. Transportation costs are high, taxes are high, cost of living is high, real estate prices are high causing an issue for our employees that might wish to purchase a home establishing deeper roots to the community. On the upside, we are close to major shipping ports, good for the export segment of our business.
3. What is an easy first step to solving this challenge?
I don’t have those answers but I prefer to answer this question in a different way with a positive point of view. My business is located in the Village of Freeport, which has always done everything they can to support us because we are able to offer employment to so many in the community. Also Freeport has their own power company, which represents a tremendous monetary advantage over the rest of LI. Even more than that is the service and efficiency; we were up and running within 72 hours after Hurricane Sandy.
4. What has been the biggest change that you’ve seen on Long Island during the course of your career?
I do not see the “brain drain” that many people complain about, saying that (because of the high cost of living and limited opportunity) our young people are leaving to seek their future elsewhere. At Love and Quiches Gourmet, we have seen an increase in our labor pool, smart and hardworking people eager to make their futures here. And most of the school systems are excellent on LI.
5. What do you think Long Island will be like in 20 years?
Probably more population, more traffic, still a high cost of living. But I still feel a sense of serenity here. We have excellent higher learning institutions, culture, great restaurants, movie theaters, tourist attractions, shopping (if that is your thing), and proximity to major airports. It is a good place to live and work. Love and Quiches Gourmet has always been located on Long Island, always one facility, since I founded the business quite by accident in my home kitchen over 40 years ago. It is a Long Island and a New York story. I have made career here and have written a business memoir that chronicles that history titled “With Love and Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey From Kitchen To Boardroom”, an easy read filled with sound business advice.
Over a span of four decades, Susan has taken the company from its first quiche to a global brand of gourmet baked goods, establishing herself as a well-known and respected entrepreneur within the foodservice industry. Today, the company is a leading manufacturer of bakery products, with a vast variety of offerings catering to the foodservice, institutional and retail trades worldwide.
Susan is a respected industry leader and has been honored with many awards, including the Roundtable for Women in Foodservice’s Pacesetter Award in Manufacturing and NAWBO’s (National Association of Women Business Owners) Woman of the Year Award. A three-time honoree in Long Island Business News’ L.I. Top Fifty Most Influential Women in Business, she was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2009. Most recent honors include NAWBO’s Businesswoman of Excellence (2011) and a special Citation from the Nassau County (NY) Department of Economic Development as part of their Made in Nassau County celebration of Women’s History Month (May 2011).
Susan ventured into the realm of social media with her blog, Susan’s Sweet Talk (www.SusansSweetTalk.com), debuting to rave reviews. Within her blog, she details her journey from housewife to entrepreneur with more than a teaspoon of humor and peppered with sage advice. As Susan’s blog following grew she was convinced to publish her story and her business advice in her new book, With Love & Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom, which has been published by Greenleaf Book Group and is due to be released in May 2014. Created with putting Quiche of the map as an alternative to the hamburger in the early days of her career, it is her wish that the book may serve as an inspiration and offer valuable guidance to other aspiring entrepreneurs.