If you can't tell by the line of Swiss flags or the folk music, just wait for Suzanne Tanner to fill you in.

"I'm from Switzerland," she'll say while she stands behind a table of treats she made the Swiss way.

She’ll point to the back of her T-shirt, which reads “Switzerland is not Sweden. Taste the difference.”

Tanner, 55, has been selling baked goods at the Freight House Farmers Market for only a month. She’ll tell you, with a smiley accent, about how this started.

Tanner grew up in Kloten, Switzerland, and moved to Ottumwa, Iowa, eight years ago for "reasons of love."

She met an Iowa man named Mark online, and they married within six months. She packed two suitcases and left Switzerland behind.

“I had never had a boyfriend with blonde hair before,” Tanner said. “I always wanted to live abroad, and then I met him.”

"I left everything behind,” she said. "It was hard — you're uprooted."

She missed a lot of things about her native country: friends, cheap airfare, chocolates and cheese. Tanner also missed specific baked goods — zopf bread, soft pretzels, apple tarts, jam cookies, croissants — that she would eat most weekends with her family.

"Switzerland is really famous for bread. I missed the crunchiness of that bread and I couldn’t find it anywhere here,” Tanner said. "Food is very emotional and it helps you feel like you.”

She started baking those familiar things at home, and then friends began asking for samples. By 2014, word grew so much that Tanner started Suzanne's Swiss Bakery out of her home.

“A lot of people had never tried things like this before,” Tanner said. "And when they order it, they come back."

In Ottumwa, she worked a series of minimum-wage jobs at the YMCA and a nearby hotel.

“Coming from one of the richest countries in the world and then going to make $7.25 an hour was a wake-up call,” she said. “We were on low income for a while and the bakery helped us out.”

Since she and Mark moved to Rock Island last year, the bakery has tapped a new customer base of neighbors and Suzanne’s coworkers at Community Health Care in Davenport.

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And she’s settling in as the new booth at the farmers market.

“We’ve been (here) five Saturdays and sold out each time,” Tanner said. “I like being around all the people, and telling them about my country and my bakery.”

One already loyal customer is Laurie Elliott, whose mother was born in Switzerland. On Saturday, she stopped by Tanner’s tent and they swapped tales about a country to which they both have ties.

"My mom was always looking for more Swiss people here; there's just not a lot of people with Swiss roots here," Elliott said. “So this is exciting. My mom would’ve loved this.”

With zopf bread (a braided bread) and bricelets (a type of thin cookie) as options, Elliott picked out a Nutella croissant to taste.

“Everyone needs a Nutella croissant on a weekend morning,” said Tanner, who placed the treat in a bag. "I want to spread that piece of joy."

"Swiss food has a distinctive taste. It's clean and fresh," Elliott said. "You can open the bag and smell the difference. It smells like Switzerland."


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).