It isn’t everyday that someone’s dream comes true. But for Jordan Cash, owner and operator of Vancouver’s Cartems Donuterie, that’s exactly how it happened.
Way back in 2002, while traveling across South Korea, Jordan awoke from some sort of delicious dream. He saw himself, the owner of a nondescript donut shop, and according to Cash, he had even envisioned the name, “Cartems.” It didn’t mean much, or anything for that matter, but the name stuck. From that point forward, visions of donuts danced in his head, and he flew back to Canada ready to follow through.
But as we all know, dreams don’t simply happen overnight. It wasn’t until Cash came west, where he enrolled in the University of British Columbia’s MBA program, that the thought really started to take hold. Here, he would shape his idea and turn it into something tangible. After a 16-month program, Cash left with a newly minted plan, ready to show Vancouver a thing or two about donuts.
Teaming up with Cartems’ co-owner, Executive Chef Rags, the two would open up a pop-up shop to mass popularity. Cash recounts those first few moments, unsure of what would happen next and where things might go wrong. Recalling the launch’s biggest challenge, he modestly admits: “We weren’t able to make donuts fast enough. There were lineups down the block.”
Although at the time, such success seemed beyond one’s wildest dreams, their trajectory was the result of hard work and an even better batch of recipes. Thanks to their blood, sweat and tears, a team of two turned into fifty, and Cartems can now be found in three distinct locations. Known for their first class confections and beautiful red boxes, Cartems has helped pioneer a mouthwatering movement, one that’s founded on innovative ideas and quality ingredients.
As Cash so shrewdly discovered, there was room for a modern-day donut shop. Following in the footsteps of local legends such as Lee’s Donuts, Cartems has taken that artisanal approach and turned it up to eleven. Stepping into any of their storefronts isn’t like wandering into some decaffeinated coffee shop. It’s a unique experience filled with good people, interesting artwork and a certain amount of sex appeal. Cartems is undeniably cool, and the only thing working against that is their deep fried dough.
For so long, Canadians have simply accepted the dull indulgences of one Mr. Tim Hortons, unwilling or too polite to demand much more. Rolling up the rim to win is one thing, but trying to pass off those uninspired treats is another. Comparing Cartems’ Salted Caramel to Tim Hortons’ Honey Cruller is like comparing apples and oranges, only if oranges tasted like burnt rubber.
Meanwhile, Cartems has created a classic menu, reaching another tier entirely. It’s impossible to pick a standout item. You could talk to a hundred people and each person might give you a different favourite donut. But, if you were to ask Jordan Cash, he’ll tell you that there’s nothing better than the Apple Fritter. He may be on to something. Rolling chunks of fresh apple and cinnamon into a yeast dough, Cartems fries it to a crispy perfection and then tops it with a cinnamon glaze. Upon completion, Cash can only ask one thing: “How do you like them apples?”
But to go an entire article without mentioning their Earl Grey Donut (pictured above) would be a disservice. Infused with an organic earl grey tea and topped with an earl grey glaze, this divine invention is an absolute crowd pleaser. It’s the kind of thing the Queen of England might request.
But wait! What about their satisfying selection of Cake Donuts, such as the Classic or Honey Parmesan? And we haven’t even gotten into their rotating monthly specials, a failsafe for any diehard donut fan who needs to try something new. In any event, you’re beginning to get the picture. This isn’t some subpar assortment hidden behind sneeze glass. These donuts are the real deal, and according to Cartems’ co-owners, they could be going the distance.
Ask Cash what’s in the cards, and he’ll impress upon you their ambitious but attainable goals. “In five years, I expect Cartems to be national.” Doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to me, especially when Cash himself has come from Toronto. Who wouldn’t want to bring back their baby and show it off to the rest of the world?
Until then though, we’ll see what shakes out. If nothing else, Cartems has shown that sometimes dreams do come true, even if they don’t mean much at the time.
Consuming so much content makes for one heck of an appetite. Order these dream-like donuts for your next event!