Special of the Day: The Fire Within Inspire Award Winner Penny Rubner

28 Apr Special of the Day: The Fire Within Inspire Award Winner Penny Rubner

Penny's Lemon Bars

Penny’s Lemon Bars

What a pleasure it was to attend The Fire Within award ceremony earlier this spring and see two local heroes of mine, Janet Neil and Penny Rubner, honored with well-deserved awards acknowledging their professional achievement, business leadership, and involvement in and impact on our community.

The Fire Within event began in March of 2011, to honor women business owners. The annual event, always held the last Thursday in March for Women’s History Month, is designed to honor all women business owners as well as provide an opportunity for women business owners to connect with other women business owners and to celebrate start-ups, Aspire and Inspire award winners,  Rebecca Engum, Small Business Development Center Director explained.

Both the Aspire and Inspire awards are chosen by a volunteer committee called The Crowning Committee, based on four areas:  Professional Achievement; Business Leadership; Community Involvement; Impact. The Inspire award is given to a woman who has been in business for longer than five years. Penny Rubner was this year’s Inspire award winner.

“Penny is an institution in Great Falls and continues to be an example for how business is done,” Engum said.  Penny’s Gourmet to Go has moved into its next life stage and continues to be a vibrant, quality operation that is responsive to customer needs. Penny’s civic contributions are widespread. It’s true that almost everyone in town has a story about how Penny has fed (or helped) them over the years.

After nineteen and a half years in the business, Penny closed her Penny’s Gourmet to Go restaurant and now, with her husband Rick, caters from their newly built professional catering kitchen with fabulous sunlight, a space Rubner describes as perfect. “It was all Rick’s vision,” Rubner said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Though she missed her customers, catering is the part she liked best about having her restaurant business, and she’s able to work as much as she wants now, just 65 steps from the front door of her house which is ideal.

One of the perks of catering has been the long list of celebrities Penny has provided food to over the years which includes David Letterman, Paris Hilton, Sarah Palin, Al Gore and Bill Clinton, to name just a few. But Penny will tell you that her best customers are her Great Falls people.

Penny found out about winning the Fire Within award when she was working at My Viola during the week of Valentine’s Day. Rebecca Engum from the Small Business Development Center came in to pick up an order.  When Penny went out to wait on her, Engum handed her a beautiful bouquet of tulips and told her she had won.

“I was speechless and totally surprised!” Penny said. “I’m sure Kari had something to do with the nomination, so it was definitely special that I was at her shop,” Penny said. They also gave her a big box of Crooked Tree cupcakes that she got to share with everyone working that day.

“It is wonderful to be recognized by my fellow women entrepreneurs,” Penny said, adding that she hopes she can inspire other women to follow their dreams and do something they love.

“While people are quick to point out what I’ve
done for Great Falls, I really think that it’s the people of this city who supported me and made my success possible who should be recognized.”

Penny said it was especially nice to get to know Janet Neill, who she said is going to do a lot of great things in this city!  “I was also very honored to be in the same group of women as Cari Yturri, Allison Fried and Sandi Thares, fellow Inspire Winners, as well as the Aspire winners, Kari Lane Johnson, Cindy Cieluch and Tracy Perry!” It was a blessing for Penny to have her two sisters and her dad travel here to attend the event.  “They were my original inspiration (as was my mom),” Penny said.

With heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Penny comes this week’s Special of the Day: The Fire Within  Inspire Award Winner Penny Rubner and her famous Lemon Bar recipe. Enjoy!


Penny's Lemon Bars

Penny’s Lemon Bars


Makes 2 to 3 dozen bars.

Recipe by Penny Rubner

Penny Rubner

Penny’s Gourmet To Go

406 453-7070



Everyone loves these lemony treats!
Cut them into small triangles for an elegant bite.

3 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place flour and powdered sugar in medium bowl. Mix in softened butter until mixture is crumbly. Pat into greased 9 inch by 13 inch pan.

Bake 15 minutes.

Cool 5 minutes.

6 eggs
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder

In large bowl beat together eggs and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Beat in lemon juice. Stir in flour and baking powder.
Pour over baked crust.

Bake 35 minutes or until set. Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.


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