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Folks lined up down the street for Little Jo Berry's grand opening. Photo from their Facebook page.

Little Jo Berry’s: New vegan café in Wellington West

By Amanda Armstrong on March 21, 2016

For all you vegans out there (and those of you who aren’t), we bring you exciting news! A new vegan bakery and coffee spot opened this weekend in Wellington West. Everyone’s favourite baker and barista, Josephine Masterson, is opening Little Jo Berry’s, at the corner(ish) of Wellington and Caroline.

Josephine became a vegan at 17. Coupled with her love of baking, she began seeking out vegan baking happenings here in the city and it was then that she met Mandi, owner of Auntie Loo’s. Auntie Loo’s became Jo’s favourite hang out – whenever they were open she would perch herself on a stool in the kitchen and chat with the chefs about what they were making. A short time afterwards she was offered a part-time position at the bakery and, in a year’s time, Jo became the full-time kitchen manager. Four and a half years later, completely submerged in Auntie Loo’s life, the business closed unexpectedly. Jo, along with everyone else, was devastated.

The next day, Jo’s brother Jimmy, with whom she is very close, came to visit and asked her what she was going to do. Not giving it too much thought as she was still dealing with the great loss of Auntie Loo’s, she replied that she may continue to work part-time and take some time for herself. “Why not open your own small business?” her brother asked. Jo had always envisioned being a small business owner but, in her dreams, she was middle-aged, starting a small business in a sleepy town by the sea in Halifax. Upon Jimmy’s inquiry, however, she knew that she had to do it.

Photo by Amanda Armstrong.

Photo by Amanda Armstrong.

From then onward, it was meetings, appointments, and a whole lot of learning. They applied for a loan through Futurepreneur, the little sister company of BDC which helps youth open their own small businesses. Unlike other avenues of obtaining financial support, who ask for the impossible before they are willing to loan you money, Futurepreneur requires you to submit a business plan and, if they like what they see, they will not only loan you the money to start your business, but set you up with mentorship in the areas in which you are weaker and walk you through the steps to opening the doors. It comes as no surprise that they loved Jo’s business plan and helped her fund her dream of opening a vegan bakery.

Once the financial aspect was sorted, Jo and her brother began looking at spaces. They spent two months touring buildings and, eventually, settled on the second space they had seen which compared favourably to all others they later saw. They were excited to make this clean, bright, open space by House of Barons and Sushi Umi their own.

Since beginning this adventure Jo has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from the community. Her brother is a plumber and carpenter so they have done a lot of work on the space themselves; Friends have come by to help paint, or help out in any way that they can. Ever since the word got out that she was opening Little Jo Berry’s, she has been overwhelmed by the many small businesses in Ottawa, offering help and support. “It is a really great feeling”, says Jo, “to be a part of a community that really wants small businesses to succeed”.

Sign painted on wall by a friend. Photo by Amanda Armstrong.

Sign painted on wall by a friend. Photo by Amanda Armstrong.

So what can one expect from Little Jo Berry’s? Josephine is passionate about coffee and baking and Little Jo’s will be a combination of the two. There will be coffee, treats, light lunches, and a variety of rotating menu items. You can be sure to find your coffee shop favourites, but you will also discover some new things. Jo loves to play with flavour and wants to make things that are new, fun, and exciting. Like her vegan poptarts which, I can assure you, are infinitely better than the real things.

Little Jo Berry’s is located at 1305 Wellington Street. They open Tuesday – Sunday at 8am. Follow them on Facebook.