In 1960, Hubert “German” Urling Sr. opened German’s Soup restaurant in Georgetown, Guyana, serving soups and other traditional Guyanaese and Caribbean dishes to his community. The unique flavors proved so popular that in 2018, Urling Sr.’s son Clinton Urling brought German’s Soup to Brooklyn, opening a store in East Flatbush.
Now, defying the odds set by the coronavirus pandemic, German’s Soup will bring its much-loved soups to Crown Heights, in a move that expands the business just in time for its 60th anniversary.
Urling, who came to New York to get his master’s in business at Columbia, said he started the East Flatbush location because demand for the traditional food served by the restaurant continued to grow.
“All the recipes were created by my dad,” Urling said. “To this day only my brother and I know the recipe for the soup. We’ve never seen anybody replicate this soup, it’s unique.”
German’s offers five soups built on a base of yellow split peas. The specialty soup is cooked with cow heel — a Guyanese staple — corn and plantain. Guyana’s diverse population means the food has influences from Africa, India and China, where Urlings great-grandmother is from, and German’s incorporates that by serving curries, fried rice and fish.
The restaurant has built up a loyal following in Brooklyn over the past two years, and Urling said because of its success, the expansion had been planned since last year.
But when the time came to move, the coronavirus pandemic hit and Urling had to keep pushing back the move-in date, with government offices closing and the hospitality industry facing dramatic changes.
“We were still open all throughout the ordeal,” he said. “We followed precautions and none of our employees were sick. We were one of the lucky restaurants.”
There was a point during the months of waiting when German’s had no income and Urling had to let go of all his staff. Then there were issues with installing gas, and other logistical hurdles to construction. But the biggest setback came when Urling was told he didn’t qualify for federal funding despite having always paid his taxes.
“We qualified for this amount of money from the government and loans, but then they came back and said, ‘No we can’t give it to you, you’re not American,’ even though we pay a lot in taxes. But because I’m not a permanent resident, I had no funding for resources.”
Urling managed to raise the money needed to continue with German’s Soup’s expansion and said the experience, coupled with seeing the Black Lives Matter protests, only strengthened his resolve to help his community. Urling has plans to continue his education by getting a Ph.D. in business administration and starting an organization to help Black people – both immigrants and citizens — jumpstart their own businesses.
But for now, Urling is focused on German’s Soups reopening for indoor dining in its new location, which will start on September 30.
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