The Fox and Pantry offers coffee, cooking classes and community.
Arriving at Vicksburg Square on a dark evening in November, it was easy to find The Fox and Pantry. The display windows of the new coffee shop (event space/gift shop/that night’s cookie decorating classroom) were glowing bright in the night.
Inside, fellow attendees clustered in spots around three long tables set up in a U shape. The tables were replete with table runners, centerpieces and piping bags filled with royal frosting in shades of green, white, red and a dusty pink. Owner Kym Joles was flitting back and forth from the kitchen with class supplies while a barista came around for drink orders.
Some attendees had come in pairs or small groups. I and my neighbor to the left were solo. Joles distributed plain sugar cookies and set to work introducing the class. “You won’t come out with a perfect set,” she said, explaining that wasn’t the point. Instead, Joles invited us to play and let our own creativity lead the way.
My neighbor in the class, a Maple Grove local named Kelly Owata, says she has taken baking classes in the past but had never been to The Fox and Pantry. “My friend is a Plymouth resident, and she sent me the link to the website,” Owata said. “I think the whole concept is really lovely.”
Although she’s taken classes before, Owata says she felt this class taught her techniques she hadn’t previously learned, from using edible gold paint to adding powder to create shadows and heighten the dimension of the cookies. “Or the rose, I’ve never done that with royal icing before, so I really liked that,” Owata said.
Planting a Seed
In the wake of her father’s passing, Joles says she was looking for a creative outlet that allowed her to be present in the moment. “I always had a way of putting things together visually, but [I’ve] never been able to draw a face, you know?” she says.
Joles, who has synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon in which one sensory experience may impact another, says she was looking for ways to play with color. As an example, Joles says, “You see days of the week in certain colors, and you can see people in numbers and certain things like that.”
Her love for color and decoration found her honing her cookie design skills and catching the eye of others through her Instagram. “The Food Network phoned a couple of times, and I was like, ‘No, that’s not for me,’” Joles says. “And then I realized: No one knows me anyway. I was some South African farm girl. I had no Instagram followers. I was just a mom who loved baking.”
Joles decided to take a chance and was featured on the November 2018 Christmas Cookie Challenge and, even though she didn’t win, she says it was a good experience. “My takeaway from that was to put yourself in uncomfortable positions, even if you don’t succeed, because I think it’s the fear that makes you grow.”
Putting Down Roots
And grow is what Joles did when she and her family moved from Chicago to Plymouth in October 2020. “This is such a cute place with so many great people,” she says. “But there’s nowhere to sit and feel comfortable.” Joles decided to take matters into her own hands and opened The Fox and Pantry in July 2022.
During the day, The Fox and Pantry serves up sweet treats and coffee drinks to customers, who can also peruse the gifts and home goods available on either end of the shop. Around the tables, Joles says it brings her joy to find people engaged in a myriad of activities, from book clubs to business meetups.
In the evening, the shop transforms into an event space catering to cooking classes and crafting or otherwise reserved for private events.
Although it may seem like a lot of businesses under one roof, Joles says the root of all offerings at The Fox and Pantry is connection. “Every single thing that we do is about connection, whether that’s private dinners, getting a cup of coffee or having a class, you make these connections,” she says. “That’s why I designed [the shop] around a dining room and not something too fancy and untouchable.”
“I really wanted something where it’s a dynamic environment that ever changes, and we can create something based around the customer, where it’s custom to their needs,” Joles says. “Because I do feel that, at the end of the day, they are choosing to spend money with us, and that’s an honor as a business. So they should have some choice around it.”
For private events, The Fox and Pantry has hosted everything from bridal showers and grooms dinners to corporate meetings and private family dinners. Joles often takes charge of the cooking herself, but if the customer wants something outside her purview—say, sushi—she’s developed relationships with knowledgeable local chefs she can reach out to.
Back to Class
Similar to her ethos on catering, Joles says she invites industry experts to lead The Fox and Pantry classes. While she is knowledgeable in many food topics—from cookies and macarons to chocolates and cakes—she says she sticks to her realm.
“For the floral classes, we have a proper florist company,” Joles says. “He’s a third-generation florist. I feel that, highlighting other businesses, saying, ‘We’re hosting David from his company, and you guys are getting the best,’ that represents my brand but also highlights the business community.”
When she’s leading a class, Joles emphasizes that the goal isn’t perfection. “I am not here to teach you to make the most beautiful plate of cookies. Otherwise, I would have outlined everything for you guys and then filmed it,” she says.
Instead, Joles likes to see her students drop their guard and get creative. She says, “There’s always a moment in class, people really get into it in their own space. You start playing.”