Tolu Makinde and Desean Gremli scanned Ottawa’s increasingly diverse food scene and still found one thing missing.
“We were just driving around, and we wanted cereal and there was nowhere to get cereal,” Gremli said. The two friends in their mid-twenties are the brains behind Ottawa’s first cereal bar, JAM, which stands for Just Add Milk.
JAM is located on Bank Street and specializes in all things cereal, from conventional cereal with milk to cereal milkshakes and cereal-crusted ice cream sandwiches. There are a variety of options like the Canadian classic, Lucky Charms as well as American exclusives like Fruity Pebbles.
“We want to reach everybody, it’s the nostalgia,” said Gremli. “There are people our age, a lot of kids anywhere from two to six, there’s even a lot of 40 and 50-year-olds that come in thinking they’re in the wrong place.”
Customers have their choice of several pre-composed cereal bowls featuring toppings like almonds, fresh fruit and chocolate sauce. Or, they can completely customize their own, mixing and matching cereals, milk flavours and toppings.
JAM offers dairy free options like almond and soy milk as well.
Stephen Evans, uOttawa Political Science student, decided to try JAM after seeing a photo of the Oreo O’s milkshake on Instagram.
“It was aesthetically appealing, it just looked good,” he said.
Milkshakes are made with the customer’s choice of chocolate or vanilla base. Lactose free options are also available.
Another customer, Michèle Bulger, 26, heard about JAM from a friend who she described as “a bit of a foodie.”
“Aside from the intrigue of trying something new; who wouldn’t want to try a treat that was nostalgic of your childhood cereal favourites,” Bulger said via email.
The idea for JAM has been in the works for a few years although, it was not until late last year that Gremli and Makinde began to truly take it seriously.
“Ottawa has this reputation for being a government town,” Makinde said. “Not always very receptive to new ideas like this.”
“I feel like as a shift in culture has come, we felt like it was the appropriate time to bring it to life.” Gremli added.
Social media was extremely important to the two when deciding how to market JAM. They also sought the help of friends who had been successful online.
“The people that we’re surrounded by are just so good at it. We knew that social media was 100 per cent the way to go,” Gremli said.
In thanks, menu items at JAM have been named after the YouTubers, designers, music artists, stores and brands that lent their time and advice.
Despite having just opened their doors this year, the increasing pressure to stay relevant in the social media era has those at JAM already looking to the future.
“You’ll see us in different places, like in different corners of the city as well, but we’re definitely doing a lot of background work. We do plan to put our best foot forward and make sure we don’t just end up being that business on the corner that is forgotten about,” Gremli said.
JAM is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.