Soup Shop to get cookin’
The Roanoke Times
COPPER HILL — Susan Huff and her husband John Bell were only passing through when they stopped in Floyd County to see a friend. But something clicked; Huff said it was magic. The seeds for Floyd’s newest restaurant were planted in the couple’s minds before they became aware of it.
Within a week, they’d put their Michigan home up for sale and moved to Copper Hill. Now, three years later, they’ve just opened their “real food” restaurant. The Soup Shop features organic food sourced from local farms. The grand opening will be celebrated Saturday, May 21, with food, games and live music.
“How did we end up here? It was magic,” said Huff. “Floyd is a farming paradise. There are so many really good, beyond-organic farms here, so much great food grown the right way. We really appreciate good food.”
Educated in biodynamic farming, Huff once owned and operated the first organic restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida. The couple had stopped in Floyd to see Spikenard Farm owner Gunther Hauk, whom Huff refers to as her first biodynamic teacher. Hauk is one of several prominent teachers of this regenerative, ecological approach to farming who have lived in the Floyd-Woolwine area in the past four decades.
Huff and Bell had retired, but it wasn’t long before Huff, the daughter of a former White House chef, decided to get her hands back in the culinary business. She yearned to support local farmers by selling soups and spreads created with ingredients grown within the county.
“I’ve always been into food — real food grown locally, prepared with love and not overly processed,” Huff said. “Last summer I started taking orders and selling soup so I could buy more produce from these awesome farms.”
Huff published an online menu and scheduled regular delivery meetups in Floyd. She expected maybe 10-12 orders, but ended up delivering 300-400 containers of soup each time. Frozen ready to use in 2-pound containers, the soup goes home with a mix of customers but mainly 50- to 70-year-olds who want healthful food without having to cook.
White chicken chili and Huff’s West African “party in the mouth” soup are top favorites. Creamy wild mushroom, carrot-sweet potato curry and the rest of Huff’s 12 regular soups also draw their share of requests. Although the couple winters in Florida, Huff and Bell made the long trip back to Floyd in January and February to avoid disappointing their customer base.
“Soup is like duct tape — it fixes everything,” Huff said. “I create all my recipes. This is my art form. My soups are never quite the same each time. I’ll add bay leaves one time, fresh thyme or garlic the next.”
Huff makes all her soups in crock pots — she has about a dozen. The soup cooks slowly at low temperatures in non-leaching ceramic pots, a method that keeps in all the nutrients and all the flavor, she says.
Last fall Huff started looking for a brick-and-mortar business location. She found a bright yellow house on U.S. Route 221 and with Bell’s guidance began planning renovations. Bell, an architect, made a name creating energy-efficiency cave data centers, but is equally proficient in above-ground design. With the help of local woodworkers and craftsmen, they transformed the ranch house into a bright, open salesroom with a small dining area. The deck offers ample table seating under picnic umbrellas.
Huff’s menu has expanded, but still focuses on soups. She also offers salads, granola, sandwiches, appetizer boards, salad dressings — ever tried maple mustard? — and spreads, including three hummuses. Huff sources the ingredients for her offerings from Riverstone, Patchwork, Fields Edge, Deer Park and about 15 other farms. She’s visited each one and made personal connections with the farm families.
“The only ingredients I grow are herbs,” Huff says. “I don’t have time to mess with the deer, and there are too many great farms I’d rather support. ‘Pay the farmer, not the grocer’ is my motto.”
The Soup Shop supports other creators in the community, offering space for neighbors’ cheeses, preserves, soaps, woodwork, note cards and soup bowl koozies. Huff sells unprocessed dairy products on a cow-share basis. Her beef comes from Clover Hill Angus in Bent Mountain down the road.
In addition, Huff has done extensive research to find “the realest cracker” and Virginia “water-milled flour.” Sourdough breads, pastries and bagels by Big Indian Farm hold a prime spot on The Soup Shop’s front counter.
The only element lacking, Huff says, is a staff. She would love to have the help of an employee or two, but she hasn’t yet found anyone.
“I’d pay them $15 an hour and give them great food,” she said. “But so far, John and I are doing it all.”
The Soup Shop is located at 7360 Floyd Hwy in Copper Hill. It will be open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The grand opening, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21, will include music by the Flying Doves band. For information, see the Soup Shop Facebook page or call 727-902-0453.