Local non-profit determined to find pandemic-born programs a permanent place in Madison

'Soups On!' is one of the initiatives Dane Buy Local hopes will help businesses survive a post-COVID economy

MADISON, Wis.– If every family spent an extra $10/month at a local business in their community, the American Economic Review reports an additional $9.3 billion would be poured back into local economies nationwide. This is especially important now because the Review projects it will take years before many businesses are able to recoup even of fraction of sales lost during the pandemic.

Dane Buy Local has been supporting south-central Wisconsin’s small businesses for 17 years, and the non-profit’s work has become increasingly important in the past year. That’s why Executive Director Colin Murray is determined to find one of Dane Buy Local’s pandemic-born programs a permanent home in Madison.

Murray created ‘Soups On!‘ last fall, as a way to support small businesses through a winter of limited capacities at indoor establishments and social distancing.

“Who doesn’t like soup in Wisconsin in the wintertime, right?” Murray joked. “But in all seriousness, I knew the program wouldn’t solve their problems by any means, but it would mean a little more cash for them.”

“And, it’s better than nothing,” he added.

For the past five months, ‘Soups On!’ has allowed nearly 30-dozen Madison-area restaurants to sell a high profit-margin product, soup, to customers who didn’t feel comfortable, or couldn’t, dine indoors. The program was originally expected to run through the end of winter, but it has since been extended through the month of April.

Murray credits community support, programs like ‘Soups On!,’ and Dane County’s small business grant program for helping many local shops survive one year of shutdowns. He says Dane Buy Local still has 600 members, down just 12 from last year.

RELATED: A full list of ‘Dane Buy Local’ members

“Our mission with Dane Buy Local really comes down to three words: collaborate, educate, and promote,” Murray said. “We collaborate with like-minded organizations, other Chambers of Commerce. We promote our members to the public. And we educate the public on the importance of supporting local.”

In order to serve more customers this spring, ‘Soups On!’ has recently moved from its pickup location outside FEED Kitchen on Madison’s northside to the Badger Prairie Needs Network in Verona. Murray says the new space comes with a larger freezer, which has allowed the program to partner with more restaurants and sell more soup. ‘Soups On!’ has picked up an additional three restaurants since its move west.

Here’s how the program works: Every Wednesday, Dane Buy Local posts its weekly menu here. Customers can then place their orders online, through Saturday at midnight. They can then either pickup their orders between 4:30 and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, outside the Badger Needs Network, or arrange for delivery.

Even if you’re not interested in this program, Murray encourages everyone in the county to become more vocal about supporting small businesses as more places start to reopen.

“Go on a local restaurant’s Facebook page and like, share or comment. Or write a Yelp review. It doesn’t cost you anything to do that.”