Deja’ Brew Coffee & Bakery’s new owners are brewing and baking up delicious new business
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
A lot of people describe coffee as a lifesaver. But at Deja’ Brew Coffee & Bakery in New Oxford, it’s not only the magic of coffee, but heavenly baked goods that share in that lifesaving role.
That’s because Deja’ Brew is one of the few local or regional bakeries that offers gluten-free treats—and plenty of them. On the day we visited, there were nearly 50 gluten-free options. And that’s not only lifesaving, but life changing for many customers.
“Deja’ Brew was one of the starting pieces—for me to be able to feel like a human being—as I was getting my life back. Their cakes saved me,” says frequent customer Dr. Tia McLaughlin.
“I felt safe, as a person with celiac disease. What Deja’ Brew does is really amazing.”
And that’s music to the ears of Josh Keeney and Lily Medina, who took ownership of the successful coffee shop last summer. The couple, who also owns Gettysburg’s and York’s Back Alley Axe—is the fourth to own the 12-year-old establishment.
“We’re your small-town bakery and coffee shop,” says Keeney. “But we also have customers who drive 30 or more miles every week because there’s nowhere else to get gluten-free baked goods that actually satisfy your sweet tooth.”
He has plans to build on that reputation and expand Deja’ Brew’s brand. Keeney sat down with us—over cups of coffee, of course—to explain his vision for the coffee shop, located at the crossroads of New Oxford.
On the Map
One of the first changes at Deja’ Brew was the brew—which now hails from Gettysburg’s Ragged Edge Roasting Company. And although Deja’ Brew has changed its coffee, business name, and owners a few times over the years, its location has remained a constant landmark on New Oxford’s Center Square, aside U.S. Route 30—the Lincoln Highway.
“We know everyone who comes in—it’s a lot of the same people every morning, so it’s really cool to learn about them and be part of their lives,” says Keeney. “We serve everyone from 3- to 95-year-olds.”
From the front windows, you can watch the world go round—or, at least, the traffic around Center Square.
“Being on Route 30, we actually have a lot of customers who travel past regularly, and once they know where we are, they make it a point to come back the next time they’re traveling through,” says Medina, who started as a barista several years ago for previous owners Lori and Steve Roth.
“I would like to say it’s the coffee, but it’s also the bakery that brings them back—everything is homemade from scratch, even the dog treats,” says Medina.
From cakes and pies to brownies and bars and biscotti, it’s hard to choose a favorite. The most popular muffin flavor? Chocolate Chip Cheesecake, with velvety chocolate and cheesecake swirls. Lemon Blueberry Bars combine tart berries with citrus punch. And the sky-high cakes that seem to defy gravity? We tried the light yet luscious layers of Tropical Coconut Cake.
It comes down to one thing: Everything is simply delicious.
“It’s all because of Doris, our head baker. She’s like family,” says Keeney.
“She’s been here through all the ownerships—she has 10 binders filled with recipes. She comes in a 2 a.m. to prep everything, and you can’t get her to take vacation—she doesn’t like days off.”
Just as Doris Haines oversees baked goods, the baristas whip up frothy lattes and milkshakes, plus fun coffee concoctions, including the Rockin’ Ox, featuring white chocolate, peppermint, and raspberry flavors.
In addition to the main coffee shop, a second room offers additional seating and a separate display case holding gluten-free treats. Two separate kitchens, one of them completely dedicated to gluten-free baking, safely protects against cross-contamination. It’s a subject that’s personal to Keeney.
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 10,” says Keeney, whose own health relies on a gluten-free diet.
He’s begun wholesaling Deja’ Brew’s treats to a growing list of fellow small businesses—Waldo’s & Co., Bantam Coffee, and the Ragged Edge. Deja’ Brew has already hired three additional bakers to keep up with customer demand.
Gluten-free or otherwise, like a good case of déjà vu, it’s the delicious tastes and flavors that bring customers back, whether near or far.
“We have some people who come every week to buy $80 to $100 [of gluten-free goodies], freeze them, and they can have treats every day for a week,” says Keeney. “It’s really cool to know you’re playing a big role in their life.”
Deja’ Brew Coffee & Bakery
16 Center Square, New Oxford