BY LINDLEY ESTES/THE FREE LANCE-STAR, Posted on Mar 1, 2015
Kelly Pawlik only uses organic, locally grown ingredients in her soups, so it’s fitting that her business City Soup grew in the same way.
In November Pawlik, 44, began the business out of the kitchen of her Willis Street home in Fredericksburg as a way to make extra cash, but word bubbled through the community. Likes on the business’ Facebook page, its only means of marketing, grew exponentially.
The Fredericksburg-area native had planned on selling only to people she knew, but now orders from throughout the city are pouring in.
She began selling homemade food a few years ago after leaving a job at the Olde Town Butcher in Fredericksburg. Back then she was selling pies, but found out that baking pies on a large scale wasn’t a labor of love anymore—or cost-effective.
So, Pawlik set about getting registered with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to sell soup on a large scale.
Now, she’s selling about 80 quarts of soup per week to customers in the 22401 ZIP Code and select areas within the 22405 ZIP Code.
Pawlik said she assumed she would need website and marketing materials to launch her business. But the business coming in from Facebook is so steady she hasn’t had to.
Her menu changes weekly. Last week she offered a chickpea and red lentil soup, chopped cabbage soup, butternut squash soup, white bean and kale soup and a broccoli chowder.
Pawlik, who has had health issues in the past which she said were solved in a large part due to a change in diet, does not use processed ingredients in her soups. Blenheim Organic Gardens near Colonial Beach is one of her preferred suppliers for quality vegetables.
And in the spring, she hopes to stock up on Snead’s Farm asparagus on Tidewater Trail to offer a cream of asparagus soup.
All of her soups are vegetarian or vegan, a choice that reflects her attitude toward healthy living. It also keeps the cost of her soup affordable, she said, since locally raised, organic meat can be expensive.
Her biggest seller is a Hungarian mushroom soup. She also make tofu barbecue that takes two days to finish. She picked up that recipe while working at Orbits, a vegetarian restaurant that used to be where the Colonial Tavern is today.
Almost all of the soups are gluten-free, as well.
Pawlik spends most of the week cooking, but heads out on deliveries on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She offers front-door delivery, and said it helps her stay connected with her customers.
She also asks customers to return the Mason jars the soup comes in for recycling.
“A lot of families purchase it to have a healthy option for dinner they don’t have to worry about,” she said.
Some of her soups, including the mushroom and chili, are building blocks for other recipes. Served over egg noodles, the mushroom soup is a vegetarian version of beef stroganoff.
For Pawlik, the goal isn’t to get rich off of selling soup. She wants to be able to pay the mortgage every month from her sales.
She also owns Fredericksburg Painting Services with husband Jeff Gandy.
Pawlik does the accounting for that business, as well, but said making soup is cutting in to her time with the ledgers.
She attributes the growth of her side business to a food revolution that is catching fire in Fredericksburg.
“People want to see the face of the person who is selling the product,” she said. “And twice a week don’t have to think about how they are going to serve healthy meal.”
Lindley Estes: 540.735-1976