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New Business: Tiny Elephant
Alison Meade has been cooking alongside her grandmother since she was eight. Her sister, Dana Bachan, taught herself baking after her second child was born. Now they have put their culinary skills–and their large family–front and center in a new cafe with a small name and big dreams: Tiny Elephant.
If you went through Verona schools any time in the last 20 years you probably sat across the desk from some member of the Meade clan, which includes six siblings. Alison graduated from Verona High School with the class of 2006 and spent time at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst before deciding that her true passion was food. She got a degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York City and, up until last December, worked at Comfort Food Kitchen in Montclair.
Then one door shut and another one opened, along with a wall. Comfort Food Kitchen closed after Christmas and while Meade was lamenting the end of a job she loved, her sister uttered six fateful words: “I wondered how much she’s asking?” The sisters soon found out that they could take over the space at 54 Fairfield Street. The business next door, Watchung Booksellers, had an idea to bring books and cupcakes even closer together: Owner Margot Sage-El was able to get Montclair to approve opening the wall between the two stores. Several Meade and Bachan family members pitched in to prep and paint the new space, creating nooks for reading and noshing, and kitchen space for cooking parties. They planned a menu that would be fresh, seasonal and, of course, family friendly. And while the paint was drying, grandma Anna DeRosa came in for several hours of intensive baking to make sure the young women could faithfully execute her recipes.
But what to call it all? “We went through lots of different ideas,” says Bachan. “How could we find a name that covered it all?” None of the ideas jelled until a younger sister who was just back from volunteering in South Africa started talking about elephants. “Elephants travel in giant family herds,” says Meade, “and they are very loyal.” And the next thing anyone knew, the business was called Tiny Elephant, with a small whisk-bearing blue pachyderm in its logo. It opened June 6 and has been drawing a herd of regulars ever since.
Tiny Elephant serves breakfast and lunch on Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and it is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can find cinnamon rolls, cookies and cupcakes, soups, salads, sandwiches and the all important pancakes of the day. This fall, Meade and Bachan will roll out family dinners that commuters can scoop up as they exit the Watchung train stop. Until then, they’ll be catering the live music events that Watchung Booksellers is running almost every summer Friday starting tonight, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. (Grateful Dude plays June 20, with Ariel Guidry on June 27.)
“It’s a tiny place,” says Meade, “with big giant dreams.”
54 Fairfield Street
Tiny Elephant on Facebook
Ample parking on the street around Watchung Plaza and in the municipal lot behind Watchung Booksellers.
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