L’il Joys are just that… the whole lot of them!

When something tastes indescribably scrumptious, my friend Jill has the perfect phrase. “Go on, try it,” she’ll nudge. “It tastes like an angel kissed your tongue!”

Well, it’s a phrase that rings true at a little coffee kiosk in the Bayfield Mall where Linda and James Joy, and their capable son Travis, pump out tiny perfect donuts, hot, soft, melt-in-your-mouth tidbits that truly do disappear the minute they nestle in your palate.

And for a nation hooked on Timmies, what the Joy’s are doing is significant. A loyal following of students, retailers, employment counsellors, administrators is lining up at this four by four foot kiosk, and filling up their cups with the java of their choice, while Linda slips six cinnamon or sugared (or plain–my fav) of the little angel kisses into a paper bag and sends them on their way.

There’s a story behind this cheerful family and it’s one of hard-core, constantly-inventing, promotable, produceable business ideas. The coffee kiosk, L’il Joys (and that’s exactly what the donuts are), is going to stick.

Linda and James moved to Barrie from Peterborough, where they had a donut (no coffee) kiosk in a little plaza in Lindsay, and another at the Pickering Flea Market. And then another at the Peterborough Farmers Market. They worked two different markets on two different days after buying their first donut machine. It’s much the same as the donut machine they have now, little circles of dough drop individually into a frying froth, and as they journey along a stainless steel canal, they cook to perfection, plucked at the last minute onto a drying towel before heading off to kiss your tongue.

After they’d made several thousands of these, James and Linda realized that this could be a fruitful business and when James took a full time job with a boot manufacturer, the couple and their four children moved to Barrie’s south end and Linda began her donut operation in a kiosk at Costco.

Chronic inventors, James and Linda are the types that are constantly thinking up new inventions… and taking them to fruition. A Sun Box nearly made it onto the shelves of The Body Shop; a toilet seat wipe was a hit in an unlikely plaza location.

But it’s the donut machine, the coffee production, Linda’s fabulous smile and the couple’s attitude that has L’il Joys just perking along.

When their Costco experience provided a retail temptation for the discount giant, the Joys took the opportunity to expand and opened in the Bayfield Mall, after a brief experience with another mall.

“This is the perfect place for us,” says Linda, sitting at one of three tables beside her kiosk just next to Dollarama in the mall’s centre cross-aisle. With water and hydro accessible through the floor, the kiosk can sit smack dab in the centre of traffic flow and the rest is up to this handy retailer and her incredible family.

James is the early bird, getting the coffee on and the first donuts and muffins into production by 7:30 am daily. Students, admin folks, and store managers are the first lines of customers.

Linda goes out shopping around 9, arrives at L’il Joys around 9:30 to take over for the day, and James heads to his home-based business representing Canadian products into the U.S. No more boot sales for him.

When Linda finishes her shift at 4, son Travis takes over and completes the day, with equal charm and rapport with his customers. The movie crowd makes the trip up stairs in time for the 7 pm show, and throughout the day store workers and shoppers take time to say “hi”, grab their coffee and pop an angel kiss into their mouth. On Saturday James and Travis share the shift. On Sunday they spend time as a family, with Georgia, Laura, Jesse as well as Travis.

While they were opening at the Bayfield Mall, they were also helping another woman set up in Collingwood and another in the IGA in Bradford. They also opened a kiosk at Santa’s Village in Bracebridge. Franchises? No, not really. The Joy’s just sell the equipment and help a person get started. They take their own design, perfected and constructed in their garage, and make continual improvements. Between my Tuesday afternoon coffee and my Wednesday morning coffee, Linda and James had installed two convection ovens to gear up for baked goods, quick meals, healthy snacks. The kiosk changes shape yet again.

In mid-August the Joys will have been in their current location for a year. They have one word for the Bayfield Mall location… awesome.

“I love coming here,” says Linda, and it shows. “I love the people, my customers. I share their situations and they share my plans for growth. I have real regulars.”

And the future? “I want to open two more, sell the equipment, have someone pay for my knowledge, set them up and train them.

“If you like people, this is great!”

You’re right, Linda. It is great! ?Thanks.