Customers who pick up a bag or box of Iggy’s Bread on their stoop or front porch, while the delivery person quickly moves away from the house, might not realize that the drop-off person is sometimes Igor “Iggy” Ivanovic himself, or his daughter, Mishka, 20, or another daughter, Tamara, 28, or Igor’s brother Nikola, who now runs the shop, or Pedja Kostic, a longtime friend of the family, like a second brother to Igor, who partners with Nikola in the bakery enterprise.
Food businesses and restaurants have had to turn on a dime since the coronavirus began. Iggy’s, based in Cambridge, has spent the last 26 years delivering baguettes and other loaves to nearly 500 wholesale customers, including local restaurants and cafes — accounts that have dwindled to 5 percent of what they typically are. So the company has gone into the retail bread delivery business.
When area restaurants and markets closed, the group knew they had to come up with a different business model. The Cambridge retail shop is still open, though only five customers at a time can go in; others wait outside wide apart. There is also curbside delivery. Pedja Kostic says it was the next generation, Mishka and Tamara, who are called “the kids” by their father and uncles, who thought about building a website to offer bread delivery to Newton, Watertown, Belmont, Lexington, Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford. They wouldn’t subcontract it to a third party. They would do the deliveries themselves (free on orders over $20).
As Kostic explains it, Mishka and Tamara, who were in New York with their father — he was visiting from Sydney, where he and his wife, Ludmilla, run Iggy’s Down Under — came to Boston just before the stay-at-home mandate came into effect. “We were all sitting around thinking about how this is going to affect us,” says Kostic. Friends from Germany and Italy told them what was going on in their countries. “People were not going to leave their homes pretty soon,” says Kostic.
The young women built a website in the blink of an eye, he says. The business is taking off.
Before Mishka and Tamara came to help out, Iggy’s idea of social media was to post a photo of a sandwich once a week on Instagram. “We don’t do any marketing,” says Kostic.
Now there’s a constant stream of posts showing photos of cookies, pizza shells, 7-grain bread, baguettes, brioche rolls, holiday brioche (available until April 19), chocolate croissants (weekends only), ancient-grain sourdough, Nikola’s granola, their wildly popular Parmesan toasts, and bagels by the half-dozen. When the Ivanovic sisters, who post the photos, want to announce something on Instagram, they might begin, “Dearest community . . .”
Most of Iggy’s breads begin with a starter; few use fresh yeast, which the bakers are still able to purchase in spite of a yeast shortage in supermarkets.
One of the things Kostic and Nikola Ivanovic — both were raised in Belgrade, Serbia, and went to college in California — have never talked about much is their experiments with ancient grains and their quest for the best flour. They buy organic flour from the Quebec company La Milanaise (whole-wheat, white, ancient whole Khorasan wheat, and whole spelt). Other flour comes from La Milanaise’s sister mill, Les Moulins de Soulanges, also in Quebec, certified by the Clean Label Project, a nonprofit that brings awareness to food and product labeling. “We know the farmers who grow the wheat and how they do it,” writes Kostic in an e-mail. Rye and cornmeal is from Farmer Ground Flour in Trumansburg, N.Y.
The deliveries, it turns out, are very gratifying. Kostic says the bread is going to people in a high-risk category who cannot leave their homes. He thinks some of the elderly customers, who aren’t online, are getting deliveries their children set up for them.
“For us, it’s fun and a bit of a break from the worries and seriousness of the situation,” he says.
Kostic delivers to Belmont on Sundays, packages that typically include chocolate croissants. Customers wave from their windows or from behind storm doors. The delivery team is getting thank-you notes and e-mails. Everyone’s grateful, he says. “It’s heartwarming, it’s grounding, it’s everything you want it to be in this crazy situation.”
Order Iggy’s bread for in-store or curbside pickup at 617-924-0949, order for delivery at www.iggysdelivery.com