BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After months of speculation, confirmation was made today that the Hesse building, former home of the Ivy Bake Shoppe, has been purchased by Jimmy and Hitomi Wendorf of Fort Madison.
Wendorf and former owner Martha Wolf, both confirmed the sale of the building and both are excited that it’s going to stay in local hands.
“It’s an iconic building and when you get a building like this it’s not so much you own the building but it kind of owns you,” Wendorf said. “We’re excited to have it. We want to make sure it’s a beauty downtown.”
He said plans for the building are still up in the air and he didn’t want to go into specifics but he did want to make sure it was clear that he didn’t buy the Ivy name.
“That’s a thriving business that’s doing very well in Burlington. We’re going to return the name to Hesse. We will have a big plaque out there at some point that says “Hesse 17th Street Market Place. I can’t go into detail on what that means yet, but as we get closer to the confirmation of things we’ll do that. It’s going to benefit…everyone.”
The Wendorfs have been living across the street from the building for 11 years and operate Simple Table, a quaint, and highly popular local specialty restaurant, on the first floor. During those 11 years Wendorf said the couple had thought about buying into the business that was across the street.
Wolf, who just finished moving some of her final belongings out of the building on Monday said she was hit with emotion as she photographed the building on the way out.
“It’s such an iconic building. There are twenty years of memories and memories of Ivy people. I hope it has great stories to tell in the future and I’m anxious to see what those stories will be,” she said.
“I got very melancholy of how many stories you could tell of the Hesses and Sheaffer’s doing some production there and the Ivy. We always said we got a different story every day we were open.”
Wolf said she remembers when the building was purchased by her former husband Tom. It was after it had been put up for auction and a lot of the building’s character had been sold such as doors and other parts of the building. She said some of the things that belonged to Bernie Hesse that were in the building were returned to him including blue prints of the building.
Wolf said she had a copy of the blue prints framed, but gave that to the Wendorfs because she said she feels anything to do with the Hesse building needs to stay with the Hesse building.
“In the summer of 1995 Tom bought it. It had been empty, installation in top arches that was coming down. Windows had been bricked up and we tore out the brick to get back to the windows. But the amazing thing was that people who had bought parts of the building brought them back for us to put back in the building. It was really fantastic. It was really a community endeavor but it’s kind of bittersweet. And I want the very best for her, it’s such a lovely lady. Not only was it my home, but the Ivy created an outside family,” Wolf said.