Where It All Began...
Over the years, the Ivy Bake Shoppes have not only enjoyed success by preparing and serving great food passionately, but also by paying close attention to our customers~old and new~every day! The Ivy concept started in 1992 in the lower level of a private home and our initial hypothesis was that women with disposable incomes wanted quality baked goods but didn't have the time to bake at home. We soon found that people liked the advantage of buying a variety of small, homemade desserts when entertaining their families and friends. Sue (Welch Saunders) and I discovered that many people were hungry for sweets but didn't want to make a dessert at home because they would end up eating the whole thing! Gradually word of mouth spread about the spectacular goodies (made with real butter, cream, sugar and flour) we were baking and selling out of Sue's home and soon the Ivy's clientele expanded beyond our circle of friends.
In November 1995, the original "Ivy Bake Shoppe & Cafe" was opened in historic downtown Ft. Madison. The building had been home to a six-generation clothing store and we decided to repurpose all of the old oak cupboards and shelves, hardwood floors and century old lighting fixtures. This history became part of our "Ivy Brand" - A beautiful warm surrounding where quality reigned supreme, fresh homemade food would be served and relationships encouraged.
Ivy Bake Shoppe & Cafe, West Burlington, IA
Our second location in Shottenkirk Superstore opened in 2002 in West Burlington, Iowa. Yep ~ a car dealership! Even though it was a new building with lots of stainless steel and glass, we managed to incorporate iron beams, oak sideboard, old lighting, lots of hanging quilts and a stunning walnut back cupboard (from St. Mary's in Nauvoo) to instill the "Ivy" feel and character. We've thrived in our new setting and have even managed to sell a few cars for Greg Shottenkirk!
In August 2013, Sue and I sold the original Ivy in Ft. Madison to another restaurant. Sue was ready to slow down, but I wasn't quite ready to retire. I was content to concentrate on our Shottenkirk location, although it didn't take me long to miss the action of a downtown location.
Uptown Ivy - Burlington, IA
The bustling cafe in West Burlington didn't keep me busy enough, because in the Spring of 2015, our new second location named "Uptown Ivy" opened in downtown Burlington.
For over 4 years we offered the best food in downtown for breakfast and lunch, as well as Specialty coffees and catering. We also offered a fine line of chocolates and caramels as well as some quaint antiques.
Over the last 27 years we have been so blessed. We are thrilled that people come from all over the country to eat at our Ivy cafes. In January, 2000, Time Magazine included us in an article about river towns; in 2005, the Chicago Tribune wrote about us in their Tempo section; in 2007, our friends from Salt Lake City helped secure a publisher for our Ivy Bake Shoppe Cookbook. The 20,000 cookbooks are all the country and maybe a few around the world. After 12 years, perhaps a new one needs to be written ~ which leads to the next Chapter of "As the Ivy Twines."
The Uptown Ivy closed in downtown Burlinton the end of May 2019. It was a difficult decision and remains bittersweet. I have loved the space, the transparent kitchen, the closeness and interaction with the customers, Marmie's and Wolf & Bark. However our lives need to be lived daily, since we don't know what tomorrow brings. It became apparent to me that I was losing the battle of passion, energy and time trying to juggle two stores.
I have no doubt I will be as busy as I am now ~ but that "busyness" will be a little more prioritized to include time for grandchildren, recipe testing in the kitchen, writing the second cookbook, and once again greeting and serving the Shottenkirk Ivy customers.
One of my favorite things about owning a restaurant is meeting people and sharing food stories. That has not changed over the years. I hope you will visit us soon, and be a part of this phenomenal journey of The Ivy.
Martha Wolf, April 2019