by Elizabeth Coady
With apologies for the pun, we’re bringing you the news that after 25 years in business, the ambitions of the Baker Street Bread Company keep rising.
Not content with making artisan breads for the Chestnut Hill community as well as 330 restaurants in the metropolitan Philadelphia area, owner Tom Ivory has revamped his Germantown Avenue storefront and is now serving breakfast and lunch. His latest effort to woo customers and foodies is the ”Steamer,” eggs scrambled with a modified cappuccino steam machine.
“It’s a game changer – nobody does them,” said the adman-turned-baker who has seen his fortunes expand with the success of the artisan business he opened on the Avenue in December 1992. “I have a feeling that it’s going to be a big hit.”
Along with a new menu being slowly rolled out comes an interior face lift that turned the cozy bakery into a cosmopolitan eatery seating 25. The staff was still perfecting its ”Steamer” techniques last week; this week it aims is to introduce soups and paninis.
“We’re making our own noodles,” said Ivory, 61. “The food is off the charts for the price point. It’s going to be good. I think people are going to be blown away.”
Since first experimenting with growing yeast inside his bedroom closet a quarter century ago, Ivory has always aimed to wow with quality and taste. An entrepreneur at heart, the former advertising salesman who launched two businesses prior to the Baker Street Bread Company began experimenting with how to make Artisan breads when he was searching for a “niche” business he could launch.
His business at that time – a company performing database searches on potential tenants for real estate owners – left him bored and unfulfilled. He discovered the burgeoning artisan bread movement and launched his bakery business, now grown into a regional standby that garners rave reviews online. Along the way he and his wife, Mary, a pediatric nurse, have raised three children. His son Tim, now 30, manages sales at the South Philadelphia warehouse where the baking is done.
“I wasn’t a cook, I wasn’t a baker, I wasn’t anything,” Ivory said. “It was a total dive-in and commit-to-it, and we made it work. It took a long time but we got it. I always wanted to have a business where I could make something healthy.”
Success came the very first day when he and his brother Tim baked 300 loaves that sold out by 10 am the very same day. They upped the number of loaves to 400 the next day and sold out again.
“We were all kind of nervous – we had no idea what to expect,” Ivory recalled about those early days. “And we opened the doors, and it was an instant hit. It was unbelievable.”
Within weeks operations expanded, and The Inquirer was knocking at his door for a feature. Then, sometime around 1997, Ivory and his team began baking bread to distribute to area restaurants. Even now, the baking operation relies entirely on human hands, not automation, to produce up to 6,000 rolls and loaves of sourdough, raisin walnut bread, Italian, multi grain and challah daily.
Not one to rest on laurels, Ivory now hopes to succeed with his revamped fresh eatery and the ”Steamer” egg concept he first encountered in a California restaurant.
“We tried to make the best bread,” he said. “This year we want to make the perfect scrambled eggs.”
After 25 successful years in business, Ivory says he’s busier than ever and calls it a “time to get creative again and try something new.”
“I’m exhausted, but I’m excited,” he said. “I’m excited to get the food rolling.”