FOUNDERS: Jordynne Ropat of Plant Joy
Plant Joy is a gourmet vegan doughnut shop located in Windsor, Ontario. It became an overnight success during its beginnings in 2018 due to the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder and operator Jordynne Ropat. After going vegan in 2015 while away at school, Jordynne returned home to Windsor following the completion of her masters to only realize her vegan treat options were few. Her entrepreneurial wheels started turning in her head, and she came up with a solution to her problem – ushering in the birth of Plant Joy. She went from renting kitchen space and local pop-ups to opening a prominent storefront. Jordynne’s ambition is a central key to her success. The shop is located at 5622 Wyandotte St E. and is ready to serve up an array of handcrafted doughnuts, all certified organic and fair trade.
Sound like the solution to your dietary restrictions? Doughnut stop reading then! Continuing with our FOUNDERS series, we chatted with Jordynne to learn more about Plant Joy’s story.
What’s the story behind the brand name?
Plant Joy has a number of meanings; the first is the more obvious one: Plant-based joy. Doughnuts bring joy; they are nostalgic and comforting, fun and colourful, and of course, delicious. But the other meaning of Plant Joy is a little more abstract. Each of us has the ability, every day (every moment) to literally “plant joy” – to be a catalyst for joyful moments in our lives and the lives of others.
What does baking mean to you? When did you decide this would become your career?
Baking has always been a way to unwind, express creativity, and above all, to give love to others through food. During my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Windsor, I participated in a number of student groups and hosted countless bake sales to raise money for charity. We would bake cupcakes with silly themes (once, we did a whole Periodic Table of Cupcakes – colour coordinated and everything!) My career plan was always to become a doctor, although once I joked that once my medical practice was established, I would open up a vegan diner. I never really decided this would become my career – it kind of just happened. After I didn’t get into medical school when I first applied, I went on to do my Master’s in Neuroscience at Western University in London, Ontario. At the time, I was vegetarian, and vegan options in London were leaps and bounds ahead of Windsor. I went vegan in 2015, and when I moved back to Windsor after my degree, I found myself craving a doughnut with no options to get one. So I decided to make them myself – and my business took off from there. After initially advertising only on social media and a few local events, I discovered the demand for vegan comfort food was larger than I initially thought. I began attending local markets and renting kitchen space in the middle of the night, working 12-hour midnight shifts in order to produce enough doughnuts to keep up with demand. Using the power of social media and word of mouth, I gained a loyal following of supportive customers that began showing up to every one of my pop-ups to get a doughnut before they sold out.
What’s there a difference between doughnuts and paczki?
Paczki is a Polish pastry and is essentially a type of doughnut – a super-rich, extra-calorie-laden doughnut. Traditionally, their purpose was to use up all the sugar, eggs, butter, lard, and fruit in the house because they were forbidden to eat during the Christian fasting period of Lent. I live in Windsor, and we are just across the border from Detroit. Neighbouring Hamtramck, Michigan has a very large Polish population, and due to our proximity, the tradition to eat Paczki on “Fat Tuesday” became popularized in Windsor. (And honestly, who would say no to a holiday centred around unabashed enjoyment of doughnuts?)
What’s your favourite flavour and what’s the most popular?
My personal favourite flavour is old-fashioned glazed. Sounds boring, but it’s just plain good without any extra frills. The most popular is cookies n creme – vanilla frosting and organic chocolate cookies (like Oreos, but we make the cookies in-house from scratch).
If you could only eat one flavour of doughnut for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It would have to be old-fashioned glazed! It’s simple, uncomplicated, and just sweet enough. Bonus points if they’re still warm – no comparison!
How did you come up with the idea to make custom doughnuts spelling out customer names or messages? Do you have any cute or funny stories?
I follow other doughnut shops and noticed a few of them featuring letter-shaped doughnuts on Instagram. Because I use a cookie cutter to cut out the traditional round doughnut shape, I figured I could use cookie cutters to cut out letters and other shapes, like hearts, as well. It’s not always easy (I don’t have a useful cookie cutter for every single letter of the alphabet, so some of them – like E and Y – I have to cut out by hand with a dough cutter) but it is really special knowing I get to be part of someone’s special day! I have done a few engagement parties (doughnuts spelling “SHE SAID YES”), I’ve made “THANK YOU” gifts for teachers, and I’ve spelled out “LOVE U” for a guy who wanted to cheer up his girlfriend. I am always honoured that I get to play a role, however small, in making someone smile.
You started Plant Joy one year ago. How do you feel now and where are you hoping to be next year?
I truly cannot believe how much Plant Joy has grown (and how much I have grown!) in the past year. It’s been a rollercoaster of learning curves, lots of teaching moments (a kind way of saying “mistakes”), and greater joys than I could ever have dreamed of. I am so ridiculously grateful for the opportunity to do something I am so passionate about – to make vegan food every day, get to know my amazing customers, and give back to the community. Next year I am looking forward to growing even more in my little storefront, continuing to nurture my team of awesome, positive people, and getting to know my neighbourhood even more. At this point, my experiences have already exceeded my wildest dreams, and I can’t wait to see where this business and I will go.