At twilight on a weekday, a little boy in a snowsuit is gazing, captivated, in the storefront window of Dolly Doll Cupcake Co. He knows what you have yet to realize: there’s sweetness inside. There’s goodness. Walk through that door and you’ll find sugar and spice and everything nice.
Better yet, you’ll discover a safe and captivating spot to bring your anaphylactic child or loved one.
A vegan, nut-free bakery, café and community hub at 2333 Church Street in North Gower, Dolly Doll is a one-of-a-kind place that welcomes, supports and serves children, families, friends, and neighbours from far and wide. More importantly, it’s a valuable, mom-powered family business—and family income—that’s looking to grow.
All the fixings are here to make that happen. The baked goods—delicious to the last bite—are 100 per cent vegan and free of peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, eggs, milk, sulphites, mustard, fish, preservatives and artificial colourings. High quality, local ingredients are used, including Red Fife ancient grain wheat flour grown at Upper Canada Village. That means it’s possible for most gluten-intolerant people to enjoy the goodies.
What’s more, if you have a special request, owner Shelley Jones will go out of her way to meet it. “We can accommodate pretty much any food allergy or intolerance,” says this mother of three.
People know they can call her at 613 986-5926 and order a dozen cookies for a school bake sale, three dozen pretzels for a work function or some pull-apart breads, tarts and cinnamon buns for a neighbourhood gathering. Everybody will be able to eat these treats, worry-free.
The icing on the cupcake? Not only are phone orders welcome, delivery service is offered, catering is available for special events and, soon, online ordering will be available too.
Shelley Jones knows how important it is to have access to wholesome, tasty, allergy-friendly food and a safe place for an anaphylactic child to eat and play. Her middle child, Phoenix, 7, has 22 allergies, several of which are life threatening. “We live with it, we’ve struggled with it,” she mentions. Shelley is leader of the Ottawa Anaphylaxis Support Group and also author of Pheeding Phoenix, a how-to book for people dealing with anaphylaxis and severe allergies. It offers important know-how about a range of topics, from how to travel and wash clothes (in case there’s an allergy to textiles and/or laundry soaps) to how to train other people to be safe around your loved one with allergies.
All too well, Shelly understands the consequences when, for instance, a relative brings a shrimp ring to a family party. She vividly recollects a time when nothing—breast milk or anything else—seemed safe for Phoenix.
“We were in the hospital every week. He was projectile vomiting every day and bloody from itching.” It was a scary, stressful time for a parent who had four-year-old Anya and a very sick baby in her care. Between frantic trips to health-care centres and doctors, Shelley did her research and tried an elimination diet. It made a difference. Today, Phoenix is an active, healthy boy who has learned how to manage food allergies.
As the dinner hour approaches, his head is tilted as he practices a fine art honed by children since the beginning of time: he’s wheedling. “Can I have pizza?” “No,” Shelley says firmly, explaining why. “Chips?” She rolls her eyes. “Nope.”
A couple of minutes later, he’s quietly munching on some cut-up fruit as his meal heats in the kitchen. Fortunately, his mom comes from a long line of bakers—“It runs in our blood”—so she’s been able to modify long-loved family recipes, with delicious results. While Phoenix’ health was the impetus for this vegan, nut-free commercial kitchen, the cupcake business was all Anya’s idea. Dolly Doll was her nickname when she was little.
Back then, when the family lived in B.C. and Anya was a three-year-old tot, she and her mom developed the concept to raise money for women’s shelters. Fast-forward a few years, sprinkle in a move back here and some tweaking, and today Dolly Doll Cupcake Co. is an invaluable asset for the village and the greater community.
Just ask Kat Gracie. Last summer Kat happened to wander in the door, and she was blown away by what she found. “You feel like you’ve discovered a secret because you can’t believe there’s this place in tiny little North Gower,” Kat exclaims. “It’s insane! Do you know what’s she’s done here?”
She puts her hands in the air and gestures to the whimsical décor and play area designed for make-believe: “The look? The style? It’s magical.”
Much like the apple crisp muffins and cookie dough cupcakes, this local treasure is the creation of a bright, determined mother. When you learn Shelley did it all herself, from the furniture refinishing and reupholstering to the painting and decorating, it’s less of a surprise when she casually mentions, “I built my own home.” That skill-set also runs in the family.
Shelley Jones is a community leader who goes out of her way to make good things happen for others. Now is the time to support her family.
Still, hammers and nails and measuring cups can’t account for how Dolly Doll has carved its way into people’s hearts since it opened a little over a year ago. At Christmas, when Shelley’s family income dropped to one and she feared she’s have to give up the bakery and go back to working for somebody else, there was an outpouring of support. Everybody from North Gower neighbours to organizations such as Ladies Who Lunch, the Ottawa-based 10,000-member social networking group, had high praise and words of encouragement. At the same time, friends and family kicked into action. Kat and Heather took over social media to make a greater impact on sales, while Marilyn (another customer-turned-friend), Shelley’s mom Ilse and her sister Melissa started helping out in the kitchen. A GoFundMe page was also set up. You can find it at gofundme.com/xkz26sv8.
There’s every reason for Dolly Doll to thrive, Kat says. “It’s a local gem that can handle online orders. It can cater to special events. The quality of the food is so good it doesn’t even matter that it’s vegan. It’s delicious, it’s local and it’s safe to eat and share.”
What’s more, she adds, this business “has become a lightning rod for the community.” People young and old gather and become friends at the shop; in December, the Dolly Doll Ukulele Group started making music. On the walls, there is art by local artists; on some shelves, there are books by local authors, and on others there are items created by local artisans and mompreneurs. Even the coffee comes from a local mom, who roasts it in her barn.
By the front door there’s a community tree to inspire leadership in youth. When kids come in and tell the smiling lady behind the counter about an act of kindness they’ve done, they get a leaf on the tree and a free cupcake.
This mom sets an example for all. She and Anya volunteer at Kindred Farm, a nearby horse rescue operation. “We go and love them and clean out their stalls,” Shelley says of the horses. They still raise money for women’s shelters and last year Anya raised over $400 for WE Day. She chose to support health, and the funds were used for a life-saving shot for a baby in Kenya.
Always, the warmth at Dolly Doll isn’t just from the baking. On Saturdays four generations of Shelley’s family, including her mom and grandma, are often in the kitchen, and on Sundays it’s possible to book a children’s tea party. Little boys and girls dress up and let their imaginations take over. Anything seems possible here. “You know what I really want to do?” Anya asks, a big smile on her face. “Make a drive-through. And I’ll get to wear the special cupcake headphones.”
Stay tuned. Given Shelley has that tool belt, and possibly a magic wand, there’s no end of potential.
Inspiration, treats, comfort and caring are mainstays on the Dolly Doll menu. Take a drive to experience its wonders and order anytime, from anywhere. The goodness here is for sharing.