In 1986, Sheila Rowe, 52, and her husband, Ronald Rowe, 53, sold produce from their fruit stand at 17102 Virginia Ave. Then they opened a sub shop there.
"We started with subs, steamers and a big pot of vegetable soup," said Sheila Rowe, president of Hickory Corner. "I thought, `This is going to be a disaster.'"
The first day, they sold 12 sandwiches and some soup.
"It grew and grew," she said.
Now it's as big as it has ever been.
The 500-square-foot diner was knocked down last month for the grand opening of the new 1,500-square-foot restaurant. The new building seats about 40 at 11 tables. Only four people could dine in the original building.
The new menu includes hamburgers, fries, veggie burgers and breakfast items.
But the soup remains the same - homemade beef vegetable, crab, chicken corn, cream of potato, ham and bean, cream of broccoli, cheesy vegetable, beef noodle, chicken noodle and clam chowder.
"I don't have a secret. It's just luck. I use good stock. I try to use the best of everything to make a good product. I try to use as many fresh things as I can," Rowe said.
Rowe rarely alters her soup-making schedule, which begins at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays.
A food processor makes things easier, and not adding salt makes the soup healthier, she said.
Does she ever let anyone help make the soup? "No. That's my baby," she said with pride.
What is the unforgivable soup-making sin?
"Burn it. That's the worst thing you can do. If you burn your soup ... the whole flavor - you're done."
And soup safety?
Rowe said to keep soup hot - at 145 degrees. And if there is leftover soup, it should be cooled fast so bacteria doesn't grow.
"But we never store it," she said. "We never have to worry about it because it is gone."
Rowe said she sometimes buys canned soup to use at home "in a pinch, when I'm in a rush."
But she said canned soup just doesn't have the same soul.
"My soup has better flavor," she said. "It's healthier - and it has a little touch of me."