Authentic Caribbean, African and Canadian Cuisine in the Heart of Algoma Country
It was a pleasure to meet Veronica and Jazz, owners of Ije’s Place – Café & Bakery, at their business in the hamlet of Desbarats, just east of Sault Ste. Marie. Named after their daughter Ije (pronounced Eeja), the general store, café, and bakery has made a big impression in the community in a very short period of time.
“In 2020, we started out renting kitchen space at the local arena”, said Veronica, “We moved to our own building in May 2021.”
I asked the couple what brought them to Desbarats. “We moved to Desbarats from Eastmain, which is a Cree community in Northern Quebec, on the east coast of James Bay. We ran a café there for several years and we decided our daughter needed better education opportunities, so we moved south. Education is very important to Veronica and Jazz since both have post-secondary degrees”
“We have family in the area, and I am originally from Sudbury, so it made a lot of sense to buy the property and settle here. Our daughter is now off to university and we’re very proud of her,” said Veronica and Jazz.
The menu currently is for take-out only and includes Caribbean, West African, East African and North African choices, and Canadian dishes. Some of the popular dishes include a Jerk Chicken Combo with authentic Jamaican jerk chicken with rice and beans or coconut rice with a side of coleslaw. The oxtail stew is a big seller, along with the Jamaican Curry Chicken and the Curry Goat Combo. The African meat pies, samosas, and spring rolls are more items that sell fast.
Many menu items are available for customers who prefer vegan cuisine. “Everything is made from scratch, including the sauces and baking. We source all of our food products locally through local farms and producers. Like B. Martin honey, Penokean Hills Farms, Johnson Farmers’ Market, North Horizon Bison, and fermented food from Cultured Club. Our dishes are based on home. Some dishes are from recipes that came from both our families. We strongly believe in respecting the culture you come from.”
A grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund was used to partially pay for kitchen equipment i.e., freezers, ovens, mixers, tables, coolers, and some building supplies. “A part of our business is to manufacture specialty pastries like beef patties, samosas, African meat pies and pastries, as well as West African and other ethnic bread for distribution to major grocery stores and shops in the Algoma region. The idea is that as a person who grew up in Sudbury and went to university at Lakehead, one of the major things that were lacking in our area, was different foods from other parts of the world. The idea is to match the food offerings in our area with the growing diversity in the region. I was pleased to be acknowledged as a part of the North when they approved the projects,” explained Veronica.
Take-out and Future Dining Options
With renovations undergoing, the dining room at Ije’s Place will be open in 2023. “This building was once a butcher shop and grocery store and needed a lot of repairs. We actually purchased it over five years ago and have been working on it since. Once the new certified kitchen was installed, we moved to our own building and have been growing the business. Our dining room will have free WiFi with a sports bar theme. We want it to be welcoming for everyone and anyone,” shared Jazz.
So far, advertising has been by word-of-mouth. Along with the take-out service, Ije’s Place can provide catering for private parties and small groups.
The reception by the community has been quite amazing. The family has a huge base in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph Island and from the surrounding community of Desbarats, including the seasonal cottage residents. In fact, the community has embraced Ije’s Place so much so, that a community member started a GoFundMe account to help the business further and ensure they stay in the community.
“We love it here and we’re here to stay,” said Veronica and Jazz. Veronica made a special point to explain to me that she makes a special effort to employ young people so she can mentor them in their first job, give them an environment to enjoy their work, provide a safe space and build confidence.
The Alimole family is very hardworking and has a goal and a plan for their business. I am positive they will not only achieve but exceed their goals.
Ije’s Place Café and Bakery
Owners Veronica and Jazz Alimole
4 Lake Huron Drive, Desbarats
PH: (249) 479-0130 or text (705) 988-2630 for orders
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