MALONE — Soup's on!
J.C. Soups Owner and Operator Jim Collette said he cooks up anywhere from 60 to 150 gallons of chowder, bisque, soup and/or stew each week.
Clients can make selections from the soup master's menu of 150-plus varieties.
"Some of them just come out of the top of my head when I'm making other soups," Jim said. "Some come to me in the middle of the night."
The trick, he added, is to switch things up, like mixing new ingredients into a classic chicken noodle recipe.
"I can make probably 25 varieties just out of one basic chicken soup."
Jim and his wife Billie had been longtime employees of Gallagher's Restaurant on Main Street in Malone.
When that eatery closed nearly 10 years ago, Jim was at a crossroads.
"I went on unemployment," he said. "That was the beginning."
The lifelong chef was nudged to start serving up soup.
"It was just the thought of doing it, the research of getting into it and then it all just made sense," Jim said.
After an 11-month licensing process, he added, everything fell into place by November 2012.
"That's when J.C. Soups was born," he said.
Working out of an at-home processing kitchen in 2013, Jim said his soup shop made just over $20,000 that first year.
Though more comfortable in the back of the house, the entrepreneur had to step out of his comfort zone to go out and sell his product.
"People really enjoyed it," he said. "One thing it is, it's tasty."
The small business signed on customers like Alice Hyde Medical Center, D&M Markets and St. Lawrence University.
The primarily order-based operation received those requests on Mondays, Jim said.
"Then Monday night, we're cooking those up and we're sending them down on Tuesday — the following day," he said. "They're getting the freshest they can get."
By 2018, Jim said he and Billie had moved the soup operation to the former Moose Lodge at 4077 State Route 11 in Malone.
The pair had begun manufacturing their soups and other specialties there and had started As We Like Cafe, open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"Every year we start to get bigger and bigger," Jim said. "By word of mouth, more or less."
And by the end of 2018, J.C. Soups' sales had increased to $120,000.
J.C. Soups was then recognized at the National Small Business Week at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 21st Annual Small Business Excellence Awards.
The North Country soup shop was the recipient of the 2019 Small Business Excellence Award.
Adirondack Economic Development Corporation Small Business Support Specialist Steven Garneau had nominated Jim and Billie.
“I wish all my clients were as dedicated, talented, and professional," Garneau had said.
'FULL OF GOODIES'
Jim couldn't pick a top soup.
"I don't really have a favorite," he said. "I taste everything I make — I taste it all."
But from their French Onion to their Bacon, Cheeseburger & Potato to their Steak & Barley, Jim said everyone gets their money's worth.
"There's just enough broth in there that makes them soup, but it's more like a meal," he said. "I make sure that every soup is hearty — they're so chopped full of goodies."
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