ABOUT THE IVY
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.
THE IVY EXPANDS...
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 thrived in the new setting and 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.
AND IF THAT WASN'T ENOUGH...
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 were so incredibly blessed. We were thrilled that people came from all over the United States to eat at all three of our Ivy cafes. In January of 2000, Time Magazine included us in an article about river towns - what a thrill! In 2005, the Chicago Tribune wrote about us in their Tempo section and in 2007, our friends from Salt Lake City helped us secure a publisher for our first Ivy Bake Shoppe Cookbook. The 20,000 original cookbooks have homes all over the United States and there may even be a few located around the world. It's been about 14 years since the release of the first cookbook, so I thought it was about time to write a second one - and so it continues - the next chapter of "As the Ivy Twines"...
To view the Time Magazine, Chicago Tribune and other press/articles - click here.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS...
The Uptown Ivy closed in downtown Burlinton at the end of May in 2019. It was a difficult decision and it remains bittersweet. I loved everything about it - the space, the transparent kitchen, the closeness to our customers and our interactions with them and also, running our other shops, Marmie's and Wolf & Bark. However, I was struggling and realized my life needed to be lived daily. Since I didn't know what tomorrow would bring, it became apparent to me that I was losing the battle of maintaining my passion and energy. There was little time left for the rest of my life as I tried to juggle the management of two cafes. Perhaps it takes more courage to push on when you don't know the outcome, but the decision is no less difficult when you decide to just stop. Sadly, that was my decision. The Ivy staff hung up our aprons for the last time on February 27, 2021.
I have said repeatedly the journey has been phenomenal. One of my favorite things about owning a restaurant was meeting people and sharing food stories. That has not changed over the years. The friendships and relationships that lasted either a couple of hours or 29 years have enriched my life immensely. The hundred or so employees have been the best - those who worked beside us, burning fingers, tasting new recipes, sharing tears of grief and tears of laughter. Throughout it all, we served some of the best food in Southeast Iowa. I am so proud to have been part of The Ivy brand, The Ivy legacy and a part of the tapestry of two beloved communities.
Although I no longer run the cafes, I'm about as busy as I was before. However, that "busyness" has become more prioritized to include time for my grandchildren, testing recipes in the kitchen and writing my second cookbook. Good news is I'll also be blogging on this site about my food experiences and my travels as well.
Thank you all for your enduring care, support, and encouragement. You have inspired me every day. I hope you will continue to seek out good food (and let me know about it), to be kind, and to keep in touch. The next chapter awaits me.
Please enjoy both Ivy cookbooks - to the newcomers, I hope you'll also become a part of The Ivy's phenomenal journey!
Blessings, Martha - October, 2021