Chestnut Hill is getting a new breakfast and lunch destination this summer. After 25 years in business, Baker Street Bread founder Tom Ivory is turning his Germantown Avenue bakery into a sit-down cafe. Over the next six weeks or so, the storefront will be transformed from a production facility — one that happens to have a busy retail counter — into a full-fledged restaurant.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Ivory, who launched Baker Street Bread back when “artisanal bread” was a relatively foreign term. (“People told me I would never be able to sell a loaf for $3.50 when Pepperidge Farm sold for $1.99 at the supermarket,” he recalled. “Then we opened and had lines around the block for two months.” His success landed him on on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.)
The change for the original location comes as Ivory, 60, is ramping up business in general: “My kids graduated from college, so now I have time to focus on the bakery again.”
Last autumn, main wholesale baking operations moved from the 2,000-square-foot Chestnut Hill space to an industrial warehouse on 20th and Washington in South Philly, tripling capacity. (It now serves upwards of 250 restaurant clients and growing — peep Instagram to see the products in use.) With the new facility up and running smoothly — “It’s been great, more space for our bakers, easier for our delivery drivers” — Ivory is now ready to move forward with his own cafe.
The new incarnation of the store at 8009 Germantown Ave., which could open as soon as late August, will still offer a wide selection of artisanal loaves, rolls and pastries to grab and go. But there will also tables with seating for around 20 people, where customers can sit and dine on a creative menu of sandwiches, soups and salads, all made with locally-sourced ingredients. There’s no head chef, per se; the list is a collaboration between Ivory and one of the longest-tenured of his 32 employees, baker Maryellen Hatch.
In the morning, expect classic breakfast sandwiches, plus options for vegans and vegetarians and a twist on eggs that isn’t offered anywhere else in the region (Ivory’s not yet ready to reveal what that is). Lunch sandwiches will run the same gamut, including variations for gluten-averse customers. New sweets are also in the plans, including some Ivory says are unique to the area, plus a full slate of espresso drinks with beans from a local roastery. Ivory is also toying with opening an hour earlier at 6 a.m., to serve the post-workout, pre-office crowds.
Prices will be reasonable. “Not, like, Wawa prices,” Ivory joked, “but you should be able to get lunch, including a drink, for less than $10 — and you’ll be eating really high-quality stuff.”
In the quarter-century since Baker Street launched (née Breadsmith), the Philadelphia artisan baking scene has exploded. Metropolitan and Le Bus jumped into the game shortly after Ivory did, but that’s nothing compared to today’s landscape, with players like Philly Bread, Wild Flour Bakery, High Street on Market, Machine Shop Boulangerie and Lost Bread Bakery plus many more restaurants that bake in-house.
But Ivory is sanguine about the crowded field. “It’s rewarding to look back and see how the artisan bread category has grown,” he said. And there hasn’t really been a downside: “We’re adding two to three new wholesale customers every week.”