Important Soup Peddler News

Dear Soupies, It’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these. Some of you may have been reading along so many years ago, when I wordily begged your pardon for retiring the old reusable soup buckets, for expanding my delivery fleet to include trucks, for expanding my menu to include things other than soup. This time I will be begging your pardon for my decision to finally bring an end our delivery service.

The Soup Peddler delivery service has been chugging along in its various iterations since 2002, when it was just me, the boy on the bike. When I began this business, Austin (and frankly the world) was truly a different place. In the food world, there were no farmers’ markets. There were no food trailers. There were no food bloggers. There was no downtown (to speak of). There was no flood of restaurant investment. There were no “disruptive apps” that brought food to your door. There were no CSAs. There were no Greenlings, no Farmhouse Deliveries. There were no prepared food emporia for every dietary preference. In fact, I don't recall if there even were dietary preferences back then. And you may not remember, but grocery stores at that time simply sold… groceries. So the competitive food landscape has changed dramatically, and the competitive attention landscape has changed too.

The Soup Peddler delivery service has managed to survive those changes, but truth be told, it has struggled to remain relevant and more recently, solvent. I don't mean to place all the blame on external forces. I am certain I have made mis-steps along the way, and there are quite enough thoughts on that subject to form a lengthy future post.

But fortunately, I did have one good idea along the way. In 2010, my wife and my banker and I made a huge leap of faith and invested in building a store. Completely different business model, completely different offering. Completely similar pie-in-the-sky business planning. As you know, I am an accidental entrepreneur. Well, "The Soup Peddler Real Food & Juice Bar" was my next lucky accident.

While the history of that effort is worthy of its own manifesto, suffice it to say that those three stores, with a fourth one in the oven, have proven to be an incredible success. They have given new life to our brand. They provide a sensible, scalable, manageable business model. They enabled us to make the leap to our new kitchen. Our organization changed on the inside to be able to support those stores, and we've developed a fair bit of institutional wisdom on the subject along the way. We found that the stores were an exciting showcase of what we can do, and that the audience and response were expanding and affirming. In short, "bricks and mortar" clearly became the path forward for The Soup Peddler.

As much as we believe in the delivery service, as grateful as we have been to the trust endowed to us by our Soupies, the writing has been on the wall for some time. I revisited the numbers, and the numbers said, "It's time to let go."

Making decisions is something we must learn to do as we grow older. I, and I'm sure many of you, have at times suffered from an inability to make large decisions. I recall several circumstances where I weighed options to the point of neurosis. It's like tasting a soup for salt so many times that you can no longer objectively taste it. I learned that that is a debilitating way to live, because life throws more and more decisions your way, and you have to decide. You have to. So many things depend on it. The fear of making a wrong decision can be even worse than making the wrong decision itself. So, all things considered, at this point in my life this was a fairly easy one.

As I often say, "business is personal." Well, there's no more personal food brand in Austin than The Soup Peddler. I am very sad to see this go. I will miss the food. I look at our recipe database and think of the ungodly amount of work and creativity that went into it. It's sad to me that that is all going away, won't exist anymore. I also feel quite terrible about letting our most devoted customers down. I know, because I share the experience, that the food becomes part of the fabric of your home life. So that is going to be a big change for some people. Moreso, we have quite a few customers who are either elderly or housebound or disabled for whom our service is very important. No, nobody is going to starve, and yes, there are many more options these days (Instacart, Favor, and the like... though they are not for the faint of technology) for customizable food delivery. But there's nothing quite like our delivery service, and I am sorry for its loss.

The good news. Our massive library of the world's greatest soup recipes, thanks in great part to the phenomenal staff at our stores, will live on. Our culinary wisdom will continue to thrive in the creative salads and side dishes we offer in our grab and go fridges. Our crave-worthy sandwiches offer another mutually beneficial outlet for our creativity. Our delightfully unique juice and smoothie menus will continue to develop in years to come. And yes, you can still get our beloved cookies any time you want.

There's just a little more to this. I think most of us have counseled friends coping with loss or divorce, and experience shows that there is light on the other side. There is a void, and into that void eventually comes new life. It takes time, but it always happens to some degree. So for me, this was also a personal decision. I am looking forward to finding out what will come to fill the space that I am creating by ending the delivery service. I trust that my old friend serendipity will come knocking with something perfect up her sleeve.

I will follow up with a tying-up-loose-ends email shortly. My deepest gratitude, as always, for sustaining us and delivering us to this day.

Yours, David J Ansel

Annual SXSW Band Name Revue!

As many of you are aware, since about 2006 I have annually spent the week prior to SXSW music festival perusing the music listings in order to compile my review of the year's band names and award a "Best Band Name" award to the most deserving aspiring rock stars. I know you join me in feeling that the years blend together in a blurry sort of montage. When I first started writing about SXSW, I was charmed by it. It was a very accessible event for me and a neighborhood wonder... I could amble about Bouldin Creek and South Congress and pluck beers and barbecue ribs at will as if from the sky... I could dance two-step in the dust to rockabilly bands... it was a special time. And I know that somewhere, somehow, there is still a way to do SXSW that would feel easy and right, but I seem to have lost the will to find it. It's just that SX has long since jumped the shark. You know the phrase, I assume? A little 7 or 8-year-old David Ansel was watching sitcoms on his black and white TV one night... I remember this, I remember when Fonzie prepared to "jump the shark" and I remember the feeling of frustration of my first "cliff-hanger ending." I'm tickled that "jump the shark" became a useful English language idiomatic expression. However, sadly, "jump the shark" is by no means an adequate descriptor of SXSW any longer. If, instead, the shark that Fonzie had jumped had its own spinoff sitcom, and that shark had his/her own cliffhanger ending where it jumped, oh, another shark or even a large marine mammal, that would be the level of shark-jumping that we are now seeing with SXSW.

Which brings us to this year's Band Name Revue. I have to admit... the crop this year... not as fertile ground as usual. When previous years yielded such gems as Crapulence and I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness and Phil & The Osophers and perhaps, the all-time champion Hipsterectomy, I found myself at a bit of a loss to find a clear standout winner this year. This year saw an all-time high of 39 "bands" listed as "DJ something", a trend that bodes ill for the level of musicianship at the festival. In related news, there were also 8 "Lil somethings." A bright light in the hip hop category was Gangsta Boo, who I can't help picturing in my mind's eye as the character from Monster's Inc., but a little edgier.

Curiously, in a year that saw great waning in the "Black" and "Death" and "Kill" categories, there was a strong trend this year towards mental health-related names. It is a clear turning-inwards, less of an inclination to blame one's own ills on others, and to express anger, to "kill them" with your band name. Rather, it is a time to turn the camera on oneself. We have Agoraphobia and Bipolaroid, and Victim Mentality. We have The Shivery Shakes and Sick Feeling. Of course, there's Elvis Depressedly. And to counter all those bands, we have The Vaccines. Then there are the social ills, with a few related bands such as Close Talker and Not In The Face.

It occurs to me at this late date that I could just make this stuff up and nobody would fact-check me.

In any event, this year saw a curious coincidence of two Ringo Starr-inspired bands, both Gringo Star and Ringo Deathstarr will be in town for your listening pleasure.

As I mentioned, it's been a slow news day in the Band Name competition, so I apologize for the brevity of this Revue. Moving right along to the runner-up... we have the lovely, the talented, Georgio Murderer. And now, for the winner of the 2015 Soup Peddler SXSW Band Name Revue (SPSXSWBNR) Grand Ladle Prize, I present to you... Guantanamo Baywatch! Come on down to the Soup Peddler and claim your prize!

A Good Ride

bh_assisted_living_021015 I celebrated the 13th anniversary of The Soup Peddler's First Ride last week. It's an easy date to remember because it's also my daughter's birthday. Mia (@minipeddler) gets to ride between Daddy and the soup on this super-stretch rig. On the way home from school, we dropped off some soup to the residents at Barton Hills Assisted Living... early reports are that it was well-received and appreciated. Pedaling the soup really did take me back to those precious days of innocence so Mia and I are going to make a weekly habit of it.

Baby Boom The Soup Peddler Family Grows

BY VIRGINIA B. WOOD, FRI., JAN. 30, 2015

food_feature3David Ansel is happier than he's ever been and every bit as proud as any father of twins could possibly be. However, the twins he's excited about aren't actual babies. In the fall of 2014, Ansel added two very important components to his 13-year-old soup business – a full-fledged commissary kitchen and a sleek new retail store with both counter service for folks who would like to eat in, as well as food to grab and go. He likens the experience to that of having twins because delivering both outlets in the same time frame was a difficult but rewarding struggle, and both have enriched his life. "We had to have the commissary in order to supply the new store or contemplate any more growth, so they ended up coming at about the same time," Ansel explains.

Ansel's business has come a long way. In the beginning, his charming little neighborhood endeavor involved cooking up pots of soup at home and delivering them to his friends in South Austin from a cooler nestled in a baby stroller behind his bicycle. Folks found the soups and the business model appealing, and before long, Ansel had rented a small storefront in a funky old strip center on the banks of Bouldin Creek. As the soup business grew, he leased more space in the center, added more soups to the product line, and sent them to his hungry customers in colorful refrigerated delivery trucks. The menu eventually included soups, entrée casseroles, side dishes, salads, and desserts. The Soup Peddler became a vibrant part of the Austin food scene a few years into the new millennium, the subject of newspaper and magazine stories, television segments, and a cookbook titled The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes and Reveries.

Ansel's first foray outside of the original Bouldin Creek location (501 W. Mary) was a brightly painted kiosk at 2801 S. Lamar where soup lovers could pick up their favorite soups as well as fresh juices and smoothies from what was then the Daily Juice. The two offerings complemented each other and helped make both seasonal businesses more viable year-round, prompting Ansel to add fresh juices and smoothies to his main product line. The kiosk was also located near Amy and Steve Simmons' first Austinville development that included an Amy's Ice Creams, a Phil's Ice House, and the first Papalote Taco shop. The synergy of all that local deliciousness in one block proved to be good for everyone involved, so when the Simmons began working on the second Austinville near Cedar Park, David Ansel was one of the other culinary entrepreneurs they invited to come along.

Ansel found the idea of growth appealing for the company that is now known as Soup Peddler – Real Food & Juice Bar, but he knew the hard-used and dilapidated old kitchen facility at the original location could not sustain another busy retail outlet. This is the point where the twins began to gestate. "We started looking for commissary space and discovered this miracle deal on Craigslist. It was an old convenience store in far South Austin that had been turned into a tamale factory at some point. The owners were willing to build it out to suit a good new tenant," Ansel recalls. With all the enthusiasm of a new parent, Ansel describes how the building was gutted and redone with completely new plumbing, wiring, vent hoods, air conditioning, and refrigeration. He extols the virtues of the 100-gallon soup kettle, the two 40-gallon tilt skillets, and the blast chiller that makes it possible to chill soups more safely and quickly to extend their shelf life. "It's a perfect soup factory and the keystone for expansion into the stores. Now that we've been working in a facility that was actually designed to make soup and our other food items, I can't believe that we were ever able to accomplish anything in the other building. Our new chef, Ari Dvorin, and all the employees are in heaven. It's a whole new day for the business."

While Ansel admits that developing the commissary at the same time as putting together a new retail outlet on the other end of town presented some challenges, the successful launch of both entities already has him thinking about more expansion. The newest location (13219 Hwy. 183 N.) is distinctively different from the original retail outlet or the kiosk. It's a quick casual restaurant offering counter service with spaces to eat inside or out. The interior is very simple, bright and airy with concrete floors, and little in the way of decor. Fresh, clean food is obviously meant to be the main attraction here. According to Ansel, the Anderson Mill-area clientele has somewhat different culinary preferences than South Austin. They like more meaty soups – chicken and rice is the hands-down favorite – order less juices and smoothies, and devour grilled cheese and grilled turkey sandwiches. He reports there's regularly a line out the door at lunch time, but people are fed quickly, and the new store already outsells the long-established kiosk down south three or four days a week. Ansel is so happy about the new kids, he's contemplating another birth, possibly in Westlake Hills.

Words To Live By - Citygram Austin Article

WORDS TO LIVE BY: DAVID ANSEL

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“Well you’re in your little room white-blood-cells-4e7eae0d87da9 and you’re working on something good but if it’s really good you’re going to need a bigger room and when you’re in the bigger room you might not know what to do you might have to think of how you got started sitting in your little room (la la la la la la la etc.) “Little Room” by The White Stripes

 

 

 

Soon after I began The Soup Peddler, I was cooking my soups after hours in a Thai restaurant downtown. At the time, I was listening heavily to The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells. The song “Little Room,” a raspy Jack White chant, struck me as a harbinger of what was to come.

Thirteen years later, the song has become the anthem of my personal path with The Soup Peddler, particularly in light of our company’s recent move to a new, pristine, incredibly equipped commercial kitchen. Very few food businesses are blessed to have such a long arc from very humble beginnings ($90 “initial capitalization”) to a relatively stable, mature age. The song has constantly called upon me to ground myself through the varied, often great challenges and changes along the way. That grounding recalls my original desire to study international foodways to create comforting, nourishing food (a sometimes difficult combination to find). Much like some companies have their mission statements, this sense of rootedness is my rudder for keeping The Soup Peddler moving in a righteous direction. I think because of that, Austin has been kind enough to reward us, to push us onward. I’m deeply thankful that we have been able to move into bigger rooms, just like Jack promised.

Hyper-Local

2x4 farmTerroir is as important with wine grapes as it is with nuts. With its varied geological influences, Austin pecans can vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood, so choice of appellation is important. We believe that single-sourced pecans is the only way to go. You have your Zilker pecans, more of a pronounced buttery nose, whereas your Bouldin pecans tend towards the heady and lean, with a touch of cedar on the back of the tongue. Oaky, silky, more supple pecans are generally the case in Travis Heights. We prefer the pecans from the hilly western part of the South Lamar neighborhood, which I lovingly refer to as Far East-Southeast Barton Hills. One of our earliest customers, Bruce Evans, has a productive little grove and we're excited to share in the bounteous harvest for our pecan-crusted tilapia dish next week. How to describe this particular sub-stratum of Austin pecan provenance? Reaching here for the right adjective... I'd say these are very... nutty.