Before he was known around town as “the soup bicycle guy,” 37-year-old Ian Ritchie, a Cincinnati native, spent 20 years cooking in restaurant kitchens, from a fast-food pizza chain to a high-end Colorado resort. He still does plenty of cooking. Every week he prepares gallons of gourmet soups (vegan peanut stew, baba ghanoush, Kentucky bison chili), which he then delivers to area homes and businesses. The twist? Ritchie loads his soup into coolers, which he pulls behind his cargo bike.
He drew inspiration from existing businesses in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore. Here’s how his operation (soupbycycle.com) works: At the beginning of each week, Ritchie posts soup selections (one vegan, one vegetarian and one “meaty”) for the following week. Customers have until Friday at midnight to place orders, usually about $5 to $10, depending on quantity. Monday he shops for ingredients, mostly on bike, and Tuesday he prepares the soup in the kitchen he rents from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Woodbourne Avenue. He devotes the rest of the week to delivery. Ritchie currently serves most of the area inside the Watterson Expressway, and he guesses that he bikes more than 100 miles weekly.
The business was born when Ritchie lost his job in January and decided to base his next career on his bike-riding hobby. “My idea was to do a hot dog cart on my bike, minus the hot dogs,” he says. The first delivery came in prime soup weather: a February snowstorm. “I made some chili and called my friends. Then they told their friends,” Ritchie recalls. “I think I sold 40 bowls that week.” He now delivers to about 150 customers each week and has plans to expand the delivery area.
Ritchie buys organic and local ingredients whenever he can and even grows some ingredients, such as vegetables and herbs, in his back yard. Added bonus: no carbon emissions during delivery. “This is the ultimate in slow food,” he says. “Especially when I’m hauling 600 pounds of soup up a hill.”
Photo: John Nation