by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Zoup! Wilsonville owner Brian Carney (in hat and glasses) works with his staff during a special mock lunch held for the Wilsonville business community last week a day ahead of the stores grand opening on June 19. At first glance, it may not seem there are many connections between auto body repair, the U.S. Marine Corps and soup.

For Tualatin resident Brian Carney, however, it has proved to be the perfect blend of ingredients for his first business. Carney, who graduated from Tualatin High School in 2007, celebrated the grand opening of the first Zoup! soup and sandwich shop west of Colorado June 18. Located in Wilsonville’s Argyle Square, the new restaurant offers a dozen rotating varieties of soup each day, including low-fat, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free and spicy choices. The soups are each served with a hunk of fresh bread, while the menu also has an array of made-to-order salads and sandwiches.

“After I got out of the Marine Corps, about one-and-a-half years ago, I got into fitness and health,” said Carney. “And I wanted to kind of change the way people think about food, because I realized good, healthy food can taste good. I wanted to bring good, healthy food to everyone and Zoup! kind of aligns with that goal.”

The rise of Zoup! as a national brand mirror’s Carney’s leap from high school graduate to business owner in just seven years. Founded in the Detroit, Mich., area in 1998, Zoup! started branching out in 2003 with its first franchise in Michigan.

By 2007 the company had revamped its executive management team and opened its first franchises outside that state, including several in Ontario, Canada. By 2013 they had expanded to Grand Junction, Colo. The Wilsonville opening marks the company’s farthest expansion west to date. Carney also hopes to open additional stores when the time is right.

“We eventually do,” Carney said. “We did sign a three-store deal with Zoup! and we want to open two more in Oregon. The nearest one is Grand Junction, Colo., so we’re all by our lonesome.”

That said, Carney’s new store is in a great place when it comes to sourcing the vegetables and other ingredients that go into the company’s many soup varieties. While all Zoup! franchises use the same wholesaler, Duck Delivery, that company, in turn, uses farms across the country, including in Oregon, to procure its products.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Zoup! Wilsonville owner Brian Carney works with his staff during a special mock lunch held for the Wilsonville business community last week a day ahead of the stores grand opening on June 19. “We try to source as much as we can through our suppliers locally,” Carney said, “But there is a lot of the packaging and a lot of that coming from Michigan because it all needs to be consistent with the franchise.”

Finding the right fit

Zoup! was an unlikely candidate for a family looking to branch out from its longstanding business, Tualatin Auto Body.

“I wanted absolutely nothing to do with the restaurant industry,” Carney said. “But my parents and I were looking at franchises, and we met the president and the real estate developer for Zoup! The soup was really good, and they were really nice people, but it still didn’t make me want to get into the restaurant business.”

In the meantime, they also considered a host of other possibilities.

“We looked at everything,” Carney said, rattling off a list of business options that ranged from high-end barbershops to business-to-business services, even screen printing and t-shirts.

“My parents own Tualatin Auto Body and we just wanted to branch out,” he said. “We love our area, but expanding an auto body shop would have been extremely cost-intensive. We wanted to continue to provide the service we’re known for providing; and by growing to two or three stores we didn’t feel we could continue to provide the same level of service, so to us it didn’t seem like a viable option.”

It wasn’t until the family traveled to Michigan for a Zoup! meet-the-team day that things finally clicked.

“I just fell in love with it,” Carney said. “It’s fun; I get to go to work and have fun, serve people good food and make people happy.”

Some might question his youth when it comes to running a business. But Carney is certainly no novice in that regard, despite his young age.

“I love business,” he said. “I love the challenge of it. I’ve always been somebody that’s been attracted to trying to do the hardest and most demanding things. Growing up, my parents taught me business and I started going to Chamber (of Commerce) meeetings when I was five. I always loved business and what you can do for your community through business.”

He added that his five years in the Marine Corps, where he was deployed to 12 different countries, have given him invaluable skills when it comes to dealing with people.

“You can’t talk to employees the same way you talk to Marines,” he said with a laugh. “They taught me to deal with different personality types that don’t necessarily mesh with me. It taught me a lot, especially when you’re dealing with people.”

The store is opening with 22 employees, including Carney. One of his best childhood friends, fellow Tualatin resident David Liming, is general manager. And everyone has bought into the unique Zoup! culture that values customer comfort above all.

“Every time we get people walking in the door, we reach out to them,” Carney said. “We try not to let them have that awkward moment when you’re staring at the other person in silence across the counter. We wanted to break that silence.”

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