Soupergirl restaurant to open Takoma Park location in April
Restaurant owner to bring pick-up and delivery option to Carroll Street
A new soup restaurant is heating up in Takoma Park.
Soupergirl, a soup pick-up and delivery restaurant, is slated to open in the city on Carroll Street by the end of April, owner Sara Polon said. The new location will include a storefront for customers to eat-in, which will open in May, she said.
"We are so excited to be moving to Takoma Park," Polon said. "We just can't wait."
The 1,500-square-foot restaurant will be located in the space next to Mayorga Coffee on Carroll Street, Polon said. Polon started Soupergirl in 2009 in a Washington, D.C. basement.
In its current form, the business is strictly a pick-up and delivery service. Polon and eight other employees make two kinds of soup each week. One is a hearty soup with ingredients like lentils or barley, the other is a smooth soup. They may expand to a third soup with the Takoma Park location, plus more in-store offerings, but Polon said she is not sure yet.
All soups are homemade and vegan and are made with natural ingredients Polon often buys at local farmers markets. Polon already shops at the Takoma Park Farmers Market on Carroll Avenue and hopes to work with even more farmers there once she moves.
"We really stand by our principles of health and responsibility for the environment," Polon said.
Polon opened Soupergirl in fall 2009 after being inspired by the book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan, which advocates eating natural, homemade food.
"Basically, I was very fortunate to have one of those Aha!' moments," Polon said.
Previously, she had worked in the travel industry for five years and before that she was a stand-up comedian in New York for four years.
Polon toyed with several other ideas to start companies specializing in local, organic food. She originally planned to open an ice cream company supplied by a local dairy.
"Then I realized the only thing I know about ice cream is that I love it," Polon said.
A friend eventually suggested to her that she try soup, because she and her mother had made good soup for their friends and family over the years. Polon brainstormed, and she and her mother held soup sampling nights at her apartment. A group of her friends would sample around five soups during an evening. Polon and her mother would take notes, and by the time Soupergirl opened, they had created a repertoire of about 50 soups.
Some of her top sellers are "West African Safari Stew", which includes sweet potatoes, peanut butter and cumin and a black bean and rice stew.
Polon began looking at kitchen spaces and eventually settled on a spot in the basement of the Tifereth Israel Congregation building in Washington, D.C. Polon held a launch party, which around 100 people attended, and word of mouth spread quickly. She started out making 50 quarts of soup each week. This week she made more than 400 quarts total.
"It's just been nonstop ever since," Polon said. "It has been a wild ride."
Polon has a large customer base with some who have ordered every week since she opened. Polon said she had 20 customers her first week. Now, she has 200, she said. Her e-mail list started at 300 people and is now up to 3,000.
"I am very pleasantly surprised," Polon's mother, Marilyn Polon, said. "I didn't think it would grow like this in such a short time. I'm really proud of her, because she really worked hard."
Marilyn Polon had retired before Sara started the business. Marilyn Polon now works with her daughter creating soup recipes and helping her prepare them each week.
Under Sara Polon's business model, customers order the soup at the beginning of the week. They have until Thursday to order for the following week. She makes the soups on Mondays and Tuesdays and then delivers them on Tuesday night and Wednesday. Customers can either choose to pick them up at one of 10 locations in the area or have them delivered for a fee of $1.65.
With the new location, Sara Polon said she also plans to expand delivery and pick-up options deeper into Maryland and Virginia and further in Washington, D.C. She is getting her kitchen kosher certified, so the business will be open every day except Saturday.
A pint of soup costs $6.75 and a quart is $12.75. There are also monthly soup subscriptions for a lump price. For $95, customers receive a quart of each soup plus free pita chips every week for a month. For $70, you get a quart of the chunky soup and a pint of the pureed soup. For $115 you get a quart of each soup and a pint of the weekly salad. For $135 you get a quart of each soup and a quart of the salad. All monthly orders only pay delivery fees once.
Sara Polon gives each soup a quirky name. For example, next week's soups are "Old World Minestrone" and "Let Them Eat Pureed Apple, Lentil, Sweet Potato Soup." She also makes a different salad each week and sells sides like pita chips, cornbread and brownies for dessert.
For the upcoming summer months, Sara Polon said she keeps customers interested by selling at least one soup each week that can be eaten cold. She said a summer favorite is a cold watermelon gazpacho. She began selling one type of grain or pasta salad each week last summer to keep business moving.
Kelly Lynch of Washington, D.C., is a weekly Soupergirl customer. She learned about the business from a friend shortly after it opened and has been hooked ever since. She orders one of each type of soup delivered to her house every week. She especially likes the lentil soups the Polons makes, she said.
"I feel like we have a special friend, but I bet most of her customers feel the same way," Lynch said. "She is just that kind of a gal. She is fun to be around, and she is such a believer in what she is doing."