2020 Small Business Person of the Year

    October 09, 2020
                Each year, the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes a small business chamber member on the basis of growth, staying power, business accomplishments, and community involvement.  Past presidents of the Chamber reviewed the nominations in August and selected this year’s winner.
            This is a particularly challenging year for business in general, so ALL of our members are to be commended for working so hard to maintain operations and staffing while we learn to function with new rules. And our honoree this year is a good example of what that looks like. How do you run a business when you can’t even be open? Fortunately, creativity is an abundant resource for this entrepreneur. Never complaining about the stay-at-home order or mask mandate, this even-keeled individual instead focused on a new business model that would serve the community and keep customers connected. Using social media, she communicated constantly with transparency and good cheer, highlighting fellow businesses and cross-promoting their products and services as well as her own, even conducting a weekly drawing to honor a different Hometown Hero.

            Probably the greatest attribute of this year’s nominee is her ability to align her business practices with her values; focusing on the greater good and encouraging others to see that good. These values were evident when this business owner re-invented her restaurant, working with local suppliers to offer grocery bundles for customers, and eventually offering curbside pickup for meals, using environmentally-friendly products and practices.

                Most of you have probably experienced her hospitality first-hand at Paddy Coughlin’s Pub, a much-loved neighborhood establishment where proprietor Erin Patterson warmly welcomes locals and visitors alike. In fact, the restaurant attracts so many out-of-towners, Erin has also been nominated for the Tourism Counts Award. Says longtime employee Danielle Nelson, “I’ve worked for Erin for almost a decade and each year I’m amazed and inspired. It’s a heartwarming feeling to see how she can bring so many people together for a good cause, especially during these trying times. The selfless acts have not slowed, and that’s why Erin is so deserving of this award.”

                A good example of this is Tuesday Trivia nights at Paddy’s, which go to benefit local charities, and Erin is so big-hearted, she started a non-profit of her own: Paddy’s Paws, a dog rescue that works with an army of volunteers to find adoptive homes for dogs in shelters, rescues and foster homes. Since its inception in 2015, Paddy’s Paws has successfully connected over 2500 dogs with loving families. Says volunteer Kari Johnson, “Erin is an amazing animal advocate with a heart of gold. By creating Paddy's Paws, she has given thousands of rescue dogs their second chance at life. Thanks to Erin and her dedication to helping homeless pups, many local community members have a loving pet.” 

                In addition, earlier this year Erin and her husband Mitch purchased the old Union Jack’s property, renovated it, and opened it as the 10-62 Saloon, adding a unique nightspot in downtown Fort Atkinson. The ribbon cutting was held just one month after the birth of their second child. Erin is not one to rest on her laurels. Says Sue Hartwick, one of her nominators, “Her work ethic is beyond compare. She is an innovative, thoughtful, community-minded, and generous business owner. She’s everything a community could hope for in a young entrepreneur.”

            Kelley Westphal has worked for and with Erin in her role as a Paddy’s waitress and as Fort Chamber Projects Manager. Kelley says Erin’s “can-do attitude” follows her in all her endeavors. Quote: “Erin has hosted a Lemonade Day team, sponsored our golf outing, helped with Rhythm on the River, and served as the Chamber’s Retail Chairperson. She even offered to provide the drinks and cheese trays for this event, before she knew she was being honored! She is as interested in building the community as she is in her own business ventures.” Unquote. 

                So with three business to run and two small children, Erin is certainly deserving of some kind of award. She and her staff have already been voted “Best Lunch,” “Best Appetizers,” “Best Bloody Mary,” “Best Bartender,” “Best Waitress,” “Best Volunteer,” and “Best Businesswoman,” through the Daily Union’s annual competition, so we hope she has room on her award wall for one more. Congratulations to Erin Patterson for being selected as the 2020 Fort Atkinson Small Business Person of the Year!
    Executive Director, Carrie Chisholm
    director@fortchamber.com, (920) 563-3210