When the Chadds Café and Store opens this weekend, it will serve as a social anchor for a small shopping center in the heart of Chadds Ford on Route 1 that is filling its storefronts and seeing new life.
The center was purchased about a year and a half ago by John Anderson and his daughter Bri Brant, who had a vision to rejuvenate the Barn Shops, which marks their 50th anniversary this year.
With attractive storefront signage, lots of fresh flowers, brick-lined walkways, and multiple outdoor seating areas, the shops and cafe invite you to linger over a cup of their signature Chadds Blend coffee and a tasty freshly baked morsel.
The father-daughter team has injected new energy into the village and want the breakfast and lunch spot to be a focal point of the area. The venue also hosts a garden which grows many of the vegetables and fruits that will be used by the cafe.
There are eight service-based shops at the center, including a gallery and frame shop, a salon, a yoga and meditation studio, a medical spa, a florist, and Arden + James — Brant’s line of beautifully crafted handmade handbags. Arden + James also sells candles, locally made honey and women’s accessories. The shop shares a space with the gallery inside the main historic brick building which faces Route 1.
The address is 1609 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford.
Brant says the Barn Shops used to be a popular Chadds Ford destination through the 1970’s and ’80’s before a fire burned down the main large barn in the middle of the center. At that time, the barn housed an additional 10 retailers, regularly drawing buses of visitors from Longwood Gardens and the Brandywine River Art Museum.
The Chadds Café and Store will be more than a restaurant; the store will carry several provisions, filling Brant’s desire to have the eatery remind visitors of an old general store. Chadds Café and Store will be open from 9 am to 3 pm Wednesday through Sunday. They hope to expand their hours as the business grows.
The head chef at Chadds Café is Pam Lau, who hails from legendary local favorites Talula’s Table and Sovana Bistro and is also an accomplished ceramicist and potter. We sat down with Lau to ask more about her creative vision for the cafe and its menu.
Town Square Delaware: Tell us about your connection to the area and your interest in joining Chadds Café as its chef?
Pam Lau: When Bri bought this place, it reminded me of my childhood. As a kid, I used to come here, and I remember when there was fudge (sold in the main barn), and I remember when the barn was there with toys, and my mother bringing us here. It was a great outlet for us. So I feel like there’s some true history. And I used to hang out at the Chadds Ford Tavern as a kid and eat there and go to the pumpkin carve.
I have lived in Kennett Square all my life. For 22 years, I helped run a family business of electronics manufacturing. And the whole time I did that, I was able to take a little time out to make (clay) pots.
We had a little bit of a recession, and I decided to make a career change, and that’s when I started cooking. I had always enjoyed cooking. And the combination of serving things and making things to eat and creating a ritual was very important to me. So I kind of fell into a couple of jobs cooking – with no experience!
TSD: Where did you launch your career as a chef?
Lau: The first place I worked was Sovana Bistro. I ended up filling in for the head pastry chef who was on maternity leave. And after a couple of weeks working for free, the owner Nick Farrell hired me. I was there for a few months, and then I had an opportunity to go to Talula’s Table. I was tasked with doing savory there, which was something that I was super interested in.
For seven years I prepared the market goods. Items like salads and sandwiches, and all of the case food, which included 15 to 20 soups, risotto, man ‘n cheese, bread puddings.
TSD: You’ve got to love the small nature of our region – where someone with little professional cooking experience can land a job at the enormously popular Talula’s Table.
Lau: It’s funny how that happened. My husband and I built a bread and pizza oven in our home. It was my husband’s Dan’s birthday, and I went into Talula’s Table to get ingredients to make our very first pizza in our oven.
Aimee Olexy (the owner) was there and asked what we were using the ingredients for. And we had a nice conversation and I ended up inviting Aimee and her husband, Chef Bryan Sikora (now owner of La Fia and Merchant Bar in Wilmington, Hearth Kitchen in Kennett Square) over for dinner. It turned out we had an amazing night, and the pizza was actually pretty good. And that’s how I met Aimee and I guess introduced her to the fact that I loved to cook.
Then after seven years, I took a break from cooking and turned back toward my love of art and making clay pots.
TSD: What will you serve at Chadds Café?
Lau: We’re going to start with baked goods, and that’s what I’m going to dial in. We have a little bit of a space constraint and not much storage space. So, we’re going to grow as we are able. We have amazing coffee from Brandywine Coffee Roasters, and they developed our own blend – Chadds blend. We will offer espresso drinks, nitro cold brew, and whole bean coffee to take home.
I’m going to try to compliment that initially with really good baked goods – pumpkin and banana-carrot muffins, some gluten-free foods, scones, granola, zucchini bread, shortbread cookies served with seasonal ice cream from Woodside Farm Creamery topped with raspberry drizzle, and lemon curd.
We are also going to offer four flavors of Romano’s Strombolis for lunch – vegetarian and meat options – and hopefully I will add seasonal vegetables and salads to complement the strombolis. We will also grow into other things as we can.
Note to readers: The original stromboli sandwich (stuffed Italian bread) was invented in 1950 in Philadelphia. They will be delivered fresh daily to Chadds Café. Romanos’ ‘awesome strombolis’ were featured on the Today Show about two years ago. This week Pete Romano brought down some original (ham, cotteghino, capicola, cheese) and spinach flavors to check out the new stromboli ovens at Chadds Café.
TSD: Tell us about this beautiful pottery? And is it for sale?
Lau: I’ve been making pottery since I was 15 years old. I started at Unionville High School. I went to Juniata College in Central PA. There is a famous potter there, his name is Jack Troy, and he was my instructor. And when I started firing a certain Anagama wood kiln, there were fewer than 20 in the country. The bread oven was based on the wood kiln I used to make pottery. I had built my own wood kiln for pottery. And that’s what propelled us to build wood kilns bread ovens at our house.
The glazes you are looking at are glazes that I have developed over the years, tweaking them, much like a recipe for food. It’s a lot of chemistry, a lot like baking. And yes, they are all for sale.
Chadds Cafe doesn’t yet have a liquor license but plans to begin BYOB in the near future.