Joshua Brau moved from New York City to Pound Ridge with his wife, Frances, and daughter, Virginia, in June 2020. They relocated during a time of uncertainty, when the city went into lockdown and residents were leaving in droves.
Mr. Brau, who co-founded a business called Ipsa Provisions a year before, said although the idea of moving had been taking shape for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the decision.
He said that he and his wife had not even heard of Pound Ridge before looking for a new home, and the first time they saw it, it was unlike any other town they considered. New Jersey, Fairfield County and other sections of Westchester were less appealing to them. He said they were looking for a town that felt far from the city despite being close to it.
For them, Pound Ridge was the perfect combination. The walkability, the residents, and the proximity to the city made this town feel like home.
“We were just very smitten from the beginning with Pound Ridge and the whole vibe here. The amount of land that is conserved, and the real commitment that I think people have to land conservation is very much in line with my values,” Mr. Brau said. “I’ve also just really enjoyed how friendly and welcoming people are.”
Originally from San Diego, California, Mr. Brau moved to the East Coast in 2001 to attend Brown University, where he studied comparative literature. In 2009, he attended Yale University for the master’s environmental management program while simultaneously working toward a master’s in business administration.
Mr. Brau said the dramatic shift from comparative literature to environmental studies stemmed from his outlook on social issues. He saw clear connections between climate change, environmental degradation, animal welfare and social welfare with the country’s food production system.
He has traveled extensively throughout the world. A year before he started the graduate program at Yale, Mr. Brau spent eight weeks in Ecuador with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The labor was intense and the reward was situated at a 10,000-foot elevation: Mr. Brau worked on a biodynamic calla lily farm in the cloud forest in the Ecuadorian Andes. According to Nature and Culture International, the cloud forests in the region are “the most diverse, fragile and complex” on earth.
“You would go outside at night, and the stars were just like nothing that I have seen since. There’s no light pollution, and the elevation. The combination of those two things was just staggering,” he said.
When he returned home and went back to school, Mr. Brau continued to shift toward the culinary arts. The 38-year-old entrepreneur said his inspiration stemmed from his parents.
“I grew up in the food industry,” he remarked. “I saw the blood, sweat and tears. I also saw the great pleasure of it,” he added.
His parents initially owned a chain of bagel stores in Southern California called Baltimore Bagel Company, and later they owned Mexican restaurants called Dorado Tacos in New York City.
When Mr. Brau and Ipsa Provisions co-founder Micah Fredman began pursuing a food business, they thought frozen food would have a broad appeal. However, what they had in mind wasn’t the typical food found in the frozen aisle at the grocery store.
Mr. Brau said the duo realized the most underutilized tool families have in their kitchen is the freezer. They decided they would provide natural, organic ingredients for consumers, cooked as complete meals made to order and delivered to people’s homes. They saw the company providing an alternative to takeout for families who didn’t have enough time to cook, or just wanted a simple meal they could put in the oven.
“It’s really about thoughtful recipes, and then great ingredients that stand for themselves,” Mr. Brau said. Ipsa means ‘themselves’ in Latin, a reflection of the company’s focus on organic, natural foods.
The Brooklyn-based business opened in 2019 and was initially available throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Mr. Brau said their delivery service has since expanded, and they now deliver to homes in most of Westchester, including Pound Ridge
Ipsa’s website makes it easy for customers to determine if they are in the delivery zone by typing their zip code at the bottom of the order form. Customers can select individual food items, priced at about $13, which lists the number of servings available, and can be individually selected for purchase. Food options range from breakfast sausages, spinach pie, stuffed shells and enchiladas, to strawberry rhubarb bread pudding and miso chocolate date cookies.
Mr. Brau said deliveries are sent out every other week, and the delivery dates are listed at the top of the website.
Mr. Brau said the decision to offer delivery initially in the city made sense, but he believes the business can also be successful in suburban neighborhoods where there are fewer takeout options.
Even though northern Westchester has fewer eateries than the city, Mr. Brau said he and his wife were not looking to recreate the New York City experience when they moved here.
The couple is enjoying the outdoor elements of the town and they have taken ample opportunities to explore the area. On weekends, they frequent the John Jay Homestead farm market and explore the town on foot, occasionally going for hikes.
“Getting to explore the area,” said Mr. Brau, “has been one of the highlights of the last year, pandemic or not.”
He noted that being a homeowner is a new experience for him. “I never had the opportunity to be the steward of a piece of land,” Mr. Brau said, adding, “I would not have thought that I would have enjoyed that challenge.”
Through small changes they have made to their property, such as converting a portion of their lawn to a wildflower meadow and planting a vegetable garden, the Braus have created an oasis of their own.
“We feel so lucky to be in a house where we can walk into town and we can walk to the park,” Mr. Brau said. “It's been the one way to kind of recreate the experience of living in the city.”