In their sixth year, Little Jo Berry’s (LJB) bakery is evolving again with a fresh batch of new ideas for Ottawa. Owner Josephine Masterson (the “Jo” of Little Jo Berry), co-creator of Bike Yeah, the upcoming Vegans Who Snack Food Festival, and monthly dinner pop-ups, where another caring business takes over their kitchen, is innovating once again with a new product line and shopping experience.
Growing isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone during COVID-19. Masterson wanted to expand the business and look for other sources of revenue, but “the pandemic was incredibly rough for LJB. Part of our success in being able to keep our business open after these last two years has been from constantly adapting and creating new products for people to get excited about.”
Many Ottawans love LJB’s wide array of treats. Now you can make them at home with the new Take Home and Bake Collection. To start, vegan puff pastry, vegan salty chocolate chip cookies, and vegan marshmallow fudgy cookies are presently available at LJB for pickup or through their home delivery service and at Daughters General Store in Kingston, as they have also started wholesaling. Many, many more “shops we love” will follow, Masterson says.
A key feature of the new products is safety: “I think a take-home product is exciting for people, because a lot of people are still more comfortable at home than in a public setting.”
Cleverly packaged by in-house design wizard Sage Hartly, the take-home products also look sharp. Masterson and Hartly are the masterminds behind LJB’s branding and merchandise that instantly sells out.
Another brand-new initiative is the transformation of the LJB eatery space. With client and staff safety front and centre, and with Masterson’s head for business, the empty tables and chairs were replaced with a safe and smart alternative. “We financially couldn’t justify having tables and chairs in our space when we weren’t using them due to COVID. So we decided to pivot and create opportunities for different sales at the shop. We started reaching out to as many local and small vegan-friendly businesses to build a mini grocery store,” Masterson says. Local brands and small businesses get priority; however, “sometimes we carry larger brands and vegan staples that are hard to find anywhere else. But the goal is to sell products we love.”
As a very personal, authentic brand, you will of course find lots of Masterson’s favourites in-store: “For me, as a person with an out-of-control sweet tooth, I’m most excited by our chocolate/candy bar collection. But I also love how many easy-to-make frozen products we carry, from vegan Jamaican patties and handmade egg rolls to seitan-based bacon that fries perfectly. I love being able to offer easy-to-make snacks.”
The result is an incredibly varied local food hub, changing as seasonal products come and go, and as Masterson brings in fresh offerings from new business pals. The Vegan Take Home and Bake Collection and in-house local grocery store will continue to expand.
Little Jo’s is a shop built on community and friendship. Its priority is to create a safe, inclusive space for the folks who visit the shop and help them grow. And they’re also a bunch of vegans. Everything they do is vegan. They have a strict no food- or body-shaming policy and everyone is welcomed to feel good about what they eat when they are there!