"Sue" was a Korean immigrant, a single mother raising a son and daughter in 1984 when she took over a shoebox-sized cafe and turned it into Over The Counter, a still-flourishing diner at 3300 S. 2300 East in Millcreek.
Even after a stroke forced her to sell the cafe in 2002, Yong Suk So Schwieger kept her hand in the restaurant business, helping nephew Sean Miller open The Park Cafe near Liberty Park.
Yong Suk So Schwieger
"Her legacy gets to live on, even though she won’t be here," Miller said Wednesday of his aunt, who died Feb. 28 of diabetes and heart disease at the age of 68. "Her business is a part of me. Everything in [the Park Cafe] reminds me of Over The Counter. It’s all her idea. We just expanded it."
A wake in her honor is set from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Red Butte Garden.
Sue left a legacy of serving hearty meals at reasonable prices in a friendly manner, an approach that attracted scores of regulars to Over The Counter, where they could sit at a U-shaped counter around grills where cooks prepared breakfasts and lunches nearly every day of the year.
"She got her hands on that place and turned it from a little old cafe into a gold mine," Miller said. "It was amazing how many guys were her good buddies, all these men sitting at the counter drinking coffee. They were all her favorites."
Part of that was because she was as tough as any of them. "She laid down the law, let people know what she wanted," Miller said. "She was a little fireball, but she got respect from everyone."
Sue earned it. She grew up in a poor home in Seoul, South Korea, the daughter of So Dae Gil and Shin Sun Ok. She and two sisters moved to the United States in 1970, all military wives. After Sue and her husband divorced, she worked three jobs at a time before opening Over The Counter.
She arrived at work most mornings at 4:30, building a thriving business with help from her children, Mark and Monica; her sister, Hey Suk Miller; and Hey Suk’s sons, Sean and Curtis Miller, all of whom waited tables. Sue expanded the cafe twice, boosting seating to 106.
After her stroke, she sold the cafe to Wayne and Seon Satsuda, who maintained the familial feel and retained many of Sue’s loyal customers.
"What she did is like the American dream," Wayne Satsuda said. "She showed you can start with nothing and end up with something."
Retirement bored Sue, so three years after leaving Over The Counter, she helped Sean spruce up an old cafe and give it new life. She didn’t work there, but spent her time making trips to Wendover and betting on football with Sean.
"I still owe her $10 from the Super Bowl," he admitted.
Through it all, Sue shared a close companionship with her sister, Hey Suk. They worked weekends together at the cafe, then lived together after Sue’s stroke, Hey Suk providing continual care and comfort. "My mom feels fortunate to have spent the last few years with her. They were always super close," Sean said.
Sue is survived by her son, Mark (Buffy) Schwieger; daughter, Monica Choi; five grandchildren; three sisters; three nephews; and a niece.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.