A Soup Shack for Soup Mama
A Soup Shack for Soup Mama
Soup Mama prepares to soup up her business via a commercial kitchen with walk-up window service in Atlanta's MLK historic district.
Soup Mama prepares to soup up her business via a commercial kitchen with walk-up window service in Atlanta's MLK historic district. Read more
First, some history...
A couple of years ago Liana Sisco, a.k.a. Soup Mama, started making soup in her kitchen and delivering it to neighbors by bicycle. Neighbors within a two mile radius of her house in Atlanta's historic Old Fourth Ward could opt in on a soup of the week and have it delivered to their doorstep in a mason jar -- just like the milkman used to do.
People would sometimes ask, “why soup?” Soup Mama would tell 'em that soup is the ultimate comfort food and a staple menu item of virtually every culture on the planet. Soup is also a metaphor for community: Lot’s of wonderful ingredients put together to make something where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. And there's nothing that bridges social barriers and brings folks together better than food. To foster community and reach out to her neighbors was key to her efforts. She also wanted to be a change agent in the community and do things in the most sustainable, responsible way possible, hence the bicycle delivery of locally produced food in the mason jars.
Some of the spirit of what Soup Mama does is captured in her logo, which pays tribute to the Sankofa heart, an Adinkra symbol that means “it is not taboo to go back into the past and fetch what you have forgotten to make for a better future.”
She didn’t officially charge for the soup, but supplied it to whoever wanted it on the basis of a suggested donation. She donated most of the donations and gave soup away to folks in the neighborhood who were struggling to make ends meet. It certainly hasn’t been a get rich quick scheme but there are things that are more important than money, like the afore-mentioned goals -- mainly that of community.
In turn, Soup Mama has been warmly embraced by the community, including the official neighborhood organization that has jurisdiction over the neighborhood. Here is the Fourth Ward Neighbors letter of endorsement for the project. Lots of people have wanted to share her story including Fox 5 News, Scoutmob, Patch, and several publications.
Now, for future plans...
Now Soup Mama is at a point where she wants to soup up her efforts and go full-fledged business. She wants it to be a triple bottom line effort that measures success not only in profit, but also in terms of social and environmental responsibility. You know -- the three P's of a balanced business:
First thing she's done is to get a new vehicle to expand the speed and range of her delivery. Stella with her rocket sidecar maintains the green delivery value with 100 mpg and one of the most environmentally friendly scooter engines on the market. With the sidecar, cargo capacity goes up to 30+ quarts of soup per trip, so Soup Mama gets to serve more Soup Buddies.
But that’s just the beginning. There’s a small building out front of where she lives that sits right on Auburn Avenue, four houses down from the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. 750,000 people a year visit here.
The little out building is the oldest structure in the neighborhood and was originally built as the kitchen for the main residence behind it. Later it was a vegetable and fruit stand and then a barbecue restaurant. Soup Mama wants to convert this building into a commercial kitchen and rechristen it as The Soup Mama’s Soup Shack.
Not only could she and her team continue making and delivering soup for the good people of historic Atlanta neighborhoods, but they could also serve many of the tourists strolling past every day through a walk-up window on the front. Besides providing food and refreshments to those visiting Auburn Ave., the Soup Shack would serve the community in several other meaningful ways.
- The home and the future Soup Shack out front are about one mile from the Georgia State campus. Liana and her husband mentor Georgia State college students. One thing they’ve learned is that college students are frequently needing part-time work and they're always hungry!
- She could provide employment for neighbors who may need it.
- The land lady of the property was raised in the main residence. There was a fire several years ago resulting in a big financial burden for her. She hired contractors to convert the out building into a small apartment but they only completed about 75% of the job and took off without finishing what they had contracted for. Soup Mama would love for the building to become an income producer for her.
- Last but not least, there’s her daughter Shelly. Shelly is deaf and has cerebral palsy. She really loves people and wants to have meaningful work. The Soup Mama needs help to pull all this off and wants Shelly to join her as her Souper Sidekick. Shelly would not only help to deliver soup, but help greet and serve visitors to our community through the window of our little Soup Shack.
Here's where you come in...
The Soup Mama would be super grateful if you would partner with her to make all this happen. The out building is going to need some work before it can open as The Soup Shack. Although the building has had some work done, it stills needs a good bit of TLC. Here's a list of stuff that has to get done before The Soup Shack is operational:
- Permitting fees
- Architectural fees
- Two dead trees removed
- Signage installed
- Interior needs further renovation and finishing
- Outside needs repainting and repair for termite damage
- Flooring needs structural repair due to age
- A walk up window area needs to be constructed
- The kitchen needs to be equipped with a steam jacket kettle, sinks, walk-in refrigerator, ice maker, work spaces, and storage.
Soup Mama needs $45,000 to accomplish all this. That’s why she's cooked up this Kickstarter campaign.
Dr. King had a dream that changed the world. Soup Mama has a dream that helps in it's own little way that vision to be more fully realized within his own neighborhood. Please become a Backer and help make The Soup Mama’s Soup Shack a reality.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk to this project is obtaining the special use permit required from the city to convert the building from residential to commercial use. The municipal code, Sec. 16-20C.004 (1)e allows for a non-residential use of the little out building, provided the Atlanta Urban Design Council can be shown that such a use as a kitchen or restaurant previously existed on the site. We have a sworn affidavit from the land lady, who grew up in the primary residence and whose family has owned the property for a couple of generations, attesting to the building's previous uses. As previously mentioned, we also have the endorsement and support of the Fourth Ward Neighbors, the duly recognized neighborhood organization.
In the event that we weren't granted the special use, our fallback plan would be to construct The Soup Shack on a trailer, similar to the residential "tiny houses" (http://tumbleweedhouses.com) that have gained popularity in the past few years. This "Plan B" would have advantages over the fixed location in that the Soup Mama could join the burgeoning food truck community in Atlanta and not be tied to a single location. The caveat would be that the mobile Soup Shack would need to be associated with a commercial kitchen to be permitted for use as a "food truck." Fortunately Soup Mama has relationships with several restaurants in the area who would cooperate in such a relationship.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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