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'JJ Elephant': Cafe, Trunk Show All in One

September 17, 2009 By:
Beth Forman Rondinelli, JE Feature
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Ronit Shames, a Chester County resident, enjoys the deck of JJ Elephant with her children, Eden and Zachary, while the cafe's manager, Joshua Davidson, hands the kids brown paper bags so they can pick berries from the blackberry tree on the backyard property.

So you're looking for a hot knish in Chester County, and you don't know where to find one?

Head on over to JJ Elephant, a new sports Internet cafe and gift shop on 921 Kimberton Road (Route 113) in Chester Springs, only two miles from the Downingtown exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The cafe, which opened its doors on June 17, prides itself in being the only kosher-certified establishment in Chester County.

But knishes, coffee and bagels aren't the only items you can find here.

When you step inside, the place looks like a trunk show -- pun intended -- for artisan Judaica and sports memorabilia. Philadelphia sports-team items predominate the overall decor, as do mezuzahs, menorahs, challah knives and more.

Judy Davidson of Downingtown, a former social worker, is the owner of the establishment; her son Joshua is the manager. (The "JJ" is a nickname, meaning "Jewish Judy.")

She and her son, who was formerly employed at a sports bar, have combined their talents and hobbies to create a casual atmosphere where patrons can sit, eat and watch a game on the downstairs 102-inch projection system or the 50-inch TV upstairs; Judy's debating on adding another one.

The menu includes an array of zaftig Brooklyn bagels -- with or without a schmear. You won't find oversized Cheerios here like you do at some other cafes. And when you order a cup of their private-label King David coffee (KSA-certified and organic), you can request a small or large, without the pretentious labels and jargon of other coffeehouses.

With the burgeoning population of Chester County, Davidson said that she wanted to fill a need by creating a comfortable place that both individuals and families can frequent.

"Jewish people are coming in -- I never thought this would happen," said Judy. "People come back and come back and come back. I'm trying to recreate what used to be on the corner."

In that vein, she's starting to introduce the good old-fashioned egg cream.

The store is supervised under Rabbi Amiel Novoseller (Ko-D). Products include items certified by the Orthodox Union; all bagels are pas Yisroel; and the cheeses are chalav Israel.

Davidson whips up certain items in house, such as the lox spread, hummus, tuna fish, egg salad and the dill butter.

'Queen of Matzah Balls'

Also, a new line of Marti's Favorites now graces the menu.

Marti Davidson Sichel, Judy's daughter, who is a gourmet cook and has recently been certified as a kosher baker, comes in once a week from Connecticut to make items like blondies and chai tea cakes, using whole-wheat flour and organic ingredients when she can. The eatery now offers hot soups as well, including a pareve matzah-ball soup and a sweet-and-sour cabbage borsht.

"Soups have been a hit -- I'm the queen of matzah balls!" she exclaims.

The cafe offers a huge wraparound deck -- 2,800 square feet in all -- where you can lounge on Adirondack chairs or relax around a table under an umbrella. Despite the front facing the busy traffic of Route 113, the property in all sits on two acres, where, out back, you can walk the grounds and admire the gardens and lawn decor. In the Veterans Garden, you can sit in an original seat from Veterans Stadium. Deer roam the wetlands nearby, and on this particular visit, kids were picking blackberries and raspberries from the property's trees and collecting them in bags given to them by Joshua Davidson.

Judy Davidson plans to have a sukkah built on the deck in the coming weeks, and various Chanukah-related celebrations are already on the calendar.

In addition to Jewish celebrations, every day's a day for sports fans, since there will always be a game on: Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Sixers -- you name it!

The cafe is closed on Shabbat. For more information, call 484-202-8422.

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