How Jelly got jumpin’

Laura Aiken
April 05, 2013
Written by
When you think of contemporary, artisan and beautiful, a doughnut isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. It’s safe to say doughnuts enjoy a reputation as delicious, but beautiful? Not really. Yet, there is no other word that would better describe the fare at Jelly Modern Doughnuts. This Calgary concept is celebrating two years of success with some big news. Canada’s original gourmet doughnut bakery café is on the move with a new location opening in Toronto this spring.

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Images courtesy of Jelly Modern Doughnuts
 
However, it’s taken more than a good-looking product in an elegant space to take this company cross country. Jelly isn’t just doughnuts. It’s a mash-up of event space, sandwich place, coffee spot, art gallery, food truck, corporate caterer, and once a week home to children’s story time. People have had wedding photos taken inside, gone to birthday parties, hosted showers and likely confided a secret or two to a friend between bites with curled up on a couch with a pink pillow. Jelly has embraced its community and felt the love in return.

“We’ve been so fortunate and we’re so grateful,” says Rita Tripathy, the Calgary lawyer who opened Jelly in April 2011 with her sister Rosanne, bearer of a design degree. Tripathy came up with the idea after finding gourmet doughnuts in her U.S. travels, fine-tuned her thoughts with her husband Murray Coleman (who has restaurant ownership experience), and then brought her sister into the fold. The siblings are a year and a half apart, and Tripathy credits their shared values as being a big part of their success.

“We have a division of duties and in general, about 99 per cent of the time, we agree. I love working with my sister.”

But Rosanne’s flair for contemporary design would be lost in a doughnut shop without quality doughnuts. Hiring Grayson Sherman, a pastry chef who spent 10 years in New York and worked previously for a restaurant Coleman was partners in, is one of the things they did right in the beginning, says Tripathy.

The bakery practices a number of current trends. Ingredient procurement is focused on organic and local. It’s a fresh product made daily from scratch, including their marshmallows, dips and glazes. The packaging is eco-friendly, and even the café interior is crafted from bamboo.

When it comes to flavours, Jelly provides its customers with their share of input. Every weekend the shop sells a chef’s creation that is based on a customer idea. The customer with the chosen idea then gets a free dozen of his or her brainchild. This has helped drive customer engagement and a successful menu.

“Then we know what people want,” says Tripathy. “We get a lot of ideas from our customers.”

One of the biggest challenges bakeries can face is getting customers through the door and spending money in the first place.

Jelly has been blessed with its share of media attention, appearing on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here, in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Toronto Star and a slew of magazines.

“It all just happened,” says Tripathy of the press attention. “We still don’t have a marketing plan.”

The community room is one of the most intriguing aspects of the business. The Tripathy sisters don’t charge customers to use it during the week, and on the weekend it serves as a place for doughnut dipping parties, birthdays and showers. The room is home to a monthly rotation of local artists, another way the Jelly brand has reached out to its community.

Jelly does a lot of corporate business as well, says Tripathy, and they do custom logos on the product. Corporate breakfast meeting packages come with everything the client needs, including cutlery and beverages.

The Tripathys have created a number of pre-packaged offerings to inspire occassions for customers to visit and buy. There is breakfast snack box for its morning customers, which includes a doughnut, organic yogurt, weekly selection of fresh organic fruit and a drink, but also breakfast meeting package, Jelly break package and the opportunity for people to host a breakfast in the community room. The multiple packages turn one meal occasion a multitude of reasons the doughnuts could be consumed.

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Rosanne and Rita Tripathy opened Jelly Modern Doughnuts in April 2011, and are now ready to take the concept country-wide. 

 
However, breakfast and business meetings aren’t the only ways they have bundled packages for customers. The doughnut cake to go included 16 three-bite doughnuts, napkins, matches, candles, tongs, candies and a tray. A children’s birthday party goes beyond the use of event space and food to include a downloadable invitation and loot bags. The bakery’s repertoire expands in the evening with options for clients to book the shop after hours with a catering menu that includes hot and cold savoury hors d’oeuvres, and drinks of the non and alchoholic variety. In this way, Jelly has created a niche product bakery that offers much more than just doughnuts. The business is selling experiences. And the concept has worked. Not only will the Tripathy sisters be opening their second location in April in the Kensington Market neighbourhood of Toronto, but also they plan to open a third location in Vancouver by the end of the year. They are looking at moving to a franchise model after that.

Tripathy, a mom, practising lawyer and entrepreneur, must have a secret or two up her sleeve for juggling this trifecta.
“Being super organized and having lots of support: my sister, my husband and my family.”

Tripathy credited support as a key to success more than once in her interview with Bakers Journal, and noted that the overwhelming community support was one of the things that surprised them the most in opening the shop back in 2011.

Now, this marketing star without a marketing plan can say her family helped lay the groundwork for making a doughnut something that comes to mind when you picture contemporary, artisan and beautiful.

Cool ideas courtesy of Jelly
  1. Creating a breakfast snack box that entails a complete meal for customers on the go
  2. Featuring an artist of the month to support your community
  3. Having customers invent your weekend special
  4. Touching on the trends (community-minded, artisan, eco-friendly) and showcasing your commitments clearly on your website
  5. Making it a family affair by engaging young children with a story time

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