Fitting the final piece into the Chadds Ford Barn Shops
By J. Chambless
Pam Lau (left), the chef at the new Chadds Cafe, was invited to take on her new job by friend Bri Brant.
By John Chambless
Last Wednesday, as morning sun streamed
through the windows of the Chadds Cafe + Store, Bri Brant was talking
about how everything fell into place for the latest addition to the
Chadds Ford Barn Shops.
About two years ago, Brant's family purchased the cluster of brick stores at the landmark crossroads in historic Chadds Ford, with the goal of reinventing them as a place to browse and gather. The whole family has pitched in, adding an outdoor seating area, doing some rebranding, and moving a few of the businesses around to make the Barn Shops a buzzed-about location.
The final piece in the eight-business complex, which is now at capacity, was a cafe.
“As soon as we started the project, we knew we had to have some sort of coffee shop or ice cream shop, just something to bring people in and give them a place to hang out,” Brant said. The space had been the site of a coffee shop in past years, as well as a yoga studio.
The brick floor, antique-looking woodwork and casual vibe are all part of the Brant family's concept for the Barn Shops as a place to sit, bring your dog, chat with neighbors and take advantage of the eclectic businesses – Green Meadows Flowers and Gifts, Be Soul, Chrome Salon, Lynn Victoria Skin Care, Yoga Underground, Barbara Moore Fine Art, the Arden + James leather goods store, and now the Cafe.
“We had a big-bang opening after we worked on this space for almost a year. People knew we were working on it, so when we opened, everyone wanted to see it,” Brant said. “Everybody does really well here, and it's been awesome.”
Once she had the cafe space prepared, Brant turned to Pam Lau, a ceramicist and chef who has worked at the renowned Talula's Table in Kennett Square. Lau exhibits her ceramics at WorKS in Kennett Square, where Brant also sells her handmade leather purses and accessories.
“We were talking one day, and I knew she was a chef,” Brant said. “I knew we had to have everything made fresh daily. Pam's scones are the best anybody's ever had. The coffee is from Brandywine Coffee Roasters, who do the roasting for Brew-Ha-Ha. I wanted Pam here all the time, cooking and making everything, and being able to talk to all the customers. I wanted this to be the highest quality experience we could have – a really personal experience.”
The cafe is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – nothing too demanding on the small staff, but enough to establish a presence in the community. “We wanted to set up the hours when we knew we could create a really great experience, and Pam can be here,” Brant said. “Basically, everyone who works here is a friend. This is a chance for us to get the recipes down, and then we'll expand when we can.”
The micro kitchen is just enough space for Pam to turn out the daily specials – usually a soup (there isn't room to do more than one), and a specialty salad for brunch, along with the signature baked goods. Everything is prepared individually, with an emphasis on healthy ingredients to satisfy the health-conscious customers who come to the Barn Shops for yoga, for instance. Sunday brunch is a busy time, and there's “a weekend scone crowd,” Brant said, but the whole vibe of the cafe is for coffee and conversation, not hurrying in and out.
“There's been a lot of social media presence,” Brant said. “It's been almost completely word-of-mouth.”
The cafe will bring back Woodside Farm Creamery ice cream in the warmer months, and Brant said there are spring BYOB events and small dinners on the calendar for spring and summer. Dogs are welcome to hang out, too.
For Brant, the aim is to make the Barn Shops welcoming to everyone, “not too cool for itself,” and to maintain the distinctive atmosphere of Chadds Ford.
“The barn shops are coming up on their 50th anniversary next year,” she said. “We feel like this cafe was the missing piece to bring more people in. We didn't brand it any particular way. We're just being ourselves.”
In many ways, the new Cafe is a replacement for the Wawa that used to operate across Route 1, said Brant, who used to work at the Wawa. “It was like our general store,” she said. “It was so much more than a Wawa. It was our daily coffee place where you'd see everybody. That's why I have a medium blend coffee here that's good for everybody.”
Chadds Cafe + Store is at 1609 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit www.chaddscafe.com, or find it on Facebook, @chaddscafe.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.