Todd Schulte of Uncommon Stock has a passion for making soup and tells us how to make something simple even better.
Nothing beats the winter blues and comforts the soul like a piping-hot bowl of homemade soup. Foodies on the go don’t always have the time and energy to prepare a stock and lovingly build a soup from scratch, and yet they aren’t quite desperate enough to resort to the canned variety. Uncommon Stock came up with the perfect solution: to sell ready-made gourmet soups created by one of KC’s most popular chefs through partnerships with local retailers as well as its own store.
Todd Schulte always had a passion for making soup. Before he opened Happy Gillis and Gennessee Royale Bistro, his initial voyage into the KC culinary scene was through his first business, the Happy Soup Eater. Schulte would make large batches of his soup of the week, divide them into quarts and deliver them to customers across the city. But with two high-profile restaurants vying for his attention, Schulte was forced to put the soup business on the back burner.
Meanwhile, Bill Haw was a Happy Gillis fan that would dine at the restaurant whenever he and his family were in town from Tokyo visiting relatives. The Haws found themselves living in Japan through Bill’s career with Amazon.com. “I got to know Todd’s cooking before I got to know him personally,” Haw says. “I loved all of his concepts. Once I knew I was moving back [to KC], I pitched that we revisit the soup concept.”
Schulte and Haw partnered up and launched Uncommon Stock in the fall of 2012. Similar to the Happy Soup Eater concept, Schulte prepares enormous batches of two or three different kinds of soup each week and divvies it up into quarts, rarely repeating a recipe unless it’s a top seller like chicken noodle or roasted tomato with asiago. “We’ve probably done 120 soups over the last year,” Haw guesses. “That’s what keeps our loyal customers coming back every week because they know the soup is going to be different.”
The upcoming week’s soup offerings are previewed on the company website, uncommon-stock.com. This is where customers can find ingredient listings and pricing for each soup, suggested pairings, an assessment of its freezability (good, extremely good or not-so-good), whether it’s vegan, gluten-free and so forth. They can also sign up for the mailing list and receive an email every Wednesday morning noting what the soups are going to be for that week.
Originally, Uncommon Stock sold its soups out of its shop, which was tacked onto the Happy Gillis location in Columbus Park. Shortly after that, it opened up two more channels: wholesale and delivery. Now its soups can be found on the shelves of local retailers like Nature’s Own and McGonigle’s. “That will be a big part of our expansion plans for the coming year as well,” Haw adds. “There are a lot more stores where we feel our product will be a great fit.”
Through its delivery channel, other businesses in the area (Missouri Bank and the Helzberg Diamonds’ corporate office, for instance) that want to plan a catered lunch can preorder their soup on the website, pay online, receive a confirmation email and have it delivered to them. “It’s a convenience for people who might not have the time or be in proximity to where we have a retail presence already,” Haw says. However, he stresses that the company only offers delivery service to businesses on a large scale at this time.
In December, Schulte announced he had sold Happy Gillis to Josh Eans, former sous chef at the American, in order to focus his efforts on Genessee Royale and Uncommon Stock. Eans and his family moved into the apartment above Happy Gillis, and Schulte and Haw relocated Uncommon Stock to 1000 W. 25th Street. “We are adding a lot more space there,” Haw says. “It’s going to be a big expansion.”
Story by Kathryn Jones