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These Guys Will Make You Melt

August 23, 2007 By:
Rachel Silverman, JE Feature
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Store employee Al Willig serves up a fresh cone of the all-kosher treat.

At first glance, "Just Chill" looks like any another neighborhood ice cream joint.

Mango, cherry and lemon water ice flavors tempt patrons with their cool, slushy texture. Groups of children wait anxiously for cones of creamy soft serve. Teens congregate on benches out front.

The difference?

A small sign in the window reading "Everything 100 Percent Kosher."

"Just Chill," which is located in Wynnewood near the intersection of Haverford Avenue and Manoa Road, is the newest of Philadelphia's kosher eateries.

The vision of Philadelphia-area natives Jeff Singer and Anthony Marziano, the store, which offers water ice, soft serve ice cream, milkshakes and sundaes, among other delectables, has been open for business since late June.

Sitting down to an interview last month, Singer, a 40-year-old father of two, explained that neither he nor Marziano is a professional ice cream connoisseur; they are actually both full-time physical therapists.

In fact, the duo work at a rehabilitation and wellness center next door called Physical Therapy Plus. The center, which Marziano owns, used to take up the entire building until the duo realized they could downsize to make room for another venture in the corner space.

The team said that initially they thought about buying a Rita's water ice franchise or opening a coffeehouse. Ultimately, however, they decided upon a homemade water ice and ice cream shop.

"We wanted to make it a hang out for kids and adults," said Singer. "We wanted to create a place where people can be meeting and greeting."

Singer, who is Jewish, said that the decision to offer kosher items was largely influenced by the store's location -- "Just Chill" sits opposite an Orthodox shul, Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, and is surrounded by an observant Jewish neighborhood.

"There are kosher restaurants [near] here," said Singer, referring to places like Shalom Pizza on Haverford Avenue. "But they don't have ices, ice cream, that kind of thing. There's no where they can really go."

According to Rabbi Shlomo Caplan of Beth Hamedrosh, however, the Rita's water ice stand on City Avenue does offer kosher items; the rabbi himself created a list of kosher choices at that store location.

Still, he pointed out that "Just Chill" offers a 100 percent kosher menu.

"I examined all the ingredients and am vouching for the fact that all the ingredients, all the products they use, are kosher," he said.

The rabbi went on to describe what the store contributes to the area.

"It's adding another dimension to the observant community here," he said. "And whatever the community has to offer in terms of services to the observant, that certainly makes the neighborhood desirable."

Hanging out with friends at "Just Chill" recently, Devorah Lichtenstein, a student at the Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, agreed.

"It's very exciting," said Lichtenstein, a resident of Bala Cynwyd. "I keep kosher so it'll be really convenient."

Caplan said he's also moseyed over to sample a scoop or two.

"I'm not such a big nosher, but I did feel that it was important to go there and show support of their products.

"I went with my wife," he added. "It was really good."


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