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Knock, knock – soup's here

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 12:45 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – If it’s Wednesday, it’s soup day.

Gail Roloff, owner of Rural Girl Soups, delivers homemade soups and salads to homes and businesses in DeKalb, Sycamore, Genoa, Kingston, Cortland and Waterman once per week.

“We have people who order once a month, and we have people who order every week,” Roloff said. Since opening her business in January, she has built a base of customers who appreciate both her soups and her unconventional business model.

Customers order and pay online until noon on Sunday of each week.

Roloff prepares soups and salads to fill the orders at Dream Kitchen, a shared-use commercial kitchen in Elgin, in time for delivery on Wednesday.

Soups are delivered frozen in quart containers. Customers leave a cooler outside their door, where Roloff leaves the order and warming instructions, even if customers are not home.

“It’s too complicated to try to coordinate schedules when people would be home,” she said.

Lea Gorman of DeKalb is a loyal customer.

“First of all, her food is really, really good, and I like that she uses fresh seasonal ingredients,” she said.

After receiving a degree in culinary arts, Roloff moved to Chicago to work in the restaurant and hospitality business.

After four years in Chicago, she returned home to Waterman and spent seven years working as a pastry chef for caterers.

“At heart, I was always a rural girl,” Roloff said.

Roloff’s interest in soups was piqued by David Ansel, a soup vendor and author of the book “The Soup Peddler’s Slow and Difficult Soups: Recipes and Reveries.” Roloff visited Ansel in Texas and was inspired by his spirit, recipes and business model, which involved delivering homemade soups in a cooler attached to his bicycle.

Roloff began trying different soup recipes for her friends and family, eventually hosting “soup parties” at about 20 homes. In 2010 she started to develop a business plan, and Rural Girl Soups opened for business in January.

“We have three to four soup flavors that vary each week, but our salads are just as popular,” Roloff said.

Customers can also order homemade cookies and hand pies supplied by Over the Top Cupcakes and Sweets, another company that uses Dream Kitchen.

“There’s nothing else like it in the area,” Gorman said. “The fact that it’s so good keeps me coming back.”

For more information, visit www.ruralgirlsoups.com.

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