Inside St. Louis

Crown Candy Kitchen

A 2008 original water color of Crown Candy Kitchen circa 1948 by local artist Marilynne Bradley.


     Walking through the doors of Crown Candy Kitchen is like a stepping into a time machine. This genuine old soda fountain, founded in 1913, has a true nostalgic feel that comes from the white and gold speckled wooden booths (each displaying original Seeburg Select-O-Matic wall boxes), the inviting walk up candy counter, an astounding display of old Coca-Cola collectibles, and the jukebox that’s smack dab in the middle of the place for customers to enjoy. The owners have built this business on high quality ingredients and customer appreciation and it gets more popular each year.





     The founders of the business, Harry Karandzieff and Pete Jugaloff, brought their confectionary skills from Greece and handed the business down to Harry’s son, George, back in the 1950’s. George’s sons, Andy, Tommy, and Mike, worked with their Dad for many years and after George’s passing 3 years ago the sons took over the business. George was the definition of a true business man until the end. His son, Tommy, shared a heart warming story about this special man. When George was terminally ill he told the son’s “If I die before Easter, put me on ice”. As it turned out, his wife went to his bedside on Easter evening in 2005 after the restaurant closed and told her husband “Easter is over, George”. He died that evening. The sons now continue the family’s long tradition of serving up irresistible food and world renowned desserts.




     This American institution has been opened continuously for the past 95 years except for one short period of time. There was the misfortune of the fire from a space heater in a bathroom that occurred on Christmas Day in 1983 which forced the owners to do some renovations. But after being closed for only 35 days the restaurant reopened with the same classic soda fountain look it was always known for. The walls now resonate with a century of history and the business continues to the delight of everyone who has discovered this sweet tooth nirvana.





     But running the business was not without challenges. As the times wore on this compact confectionary, the neighborhood and customer base declined. At its lowest point, it served only 10 customers per day. Luckily, though, Crown began its comeback long before the neighborhood’s revitalization. This resurgence in part was made possible by happy customers like Johnny Rabbitt, radio personality, praising the restaurant on air during the 1970’s. Rabbitt frequented Crown and when he visited he’d always request the banana and nutmeg malt and George would always oblige. This banana malt, topped with nuts, whipped cream, nutmeg, and finally a cherry was first created by Johnny Rabbitt at his grandfather’s drugstore, the Olympia Pharmacy in the Olympia apartment building at Vandeventer and West Pine back in 1948 and recreated at Crown in the early 1980’s. When Johnny Rabbitt was asked about the resurgence of Crown by Antique Warehouse’s Curator, Greg Rhomberg, Rabbitt recollected:




     "Crown Candy, justifiably one of our town's top attractions for locals and out-of-towners, has long out-lived all the many dozens of once upon a yesteryear "sweet shops" that were gathering places in every neighborhood. CC with its prominent corner position at the north end of the once bustling N. 14th Street shopping district at St. Louis Avenue has persevered through times good and bad. Businesses with the Crown staying power are almost non-existent, as Crown Candy came into being before WWI, survived that war, made it through the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the Great Depression, WWII, the post-war flight to the suburbs, the Korean War, the Cold War, Vietnam, the misguided N. 14th St. shopping mall, the on-going deterioration of Old North St. Louis all the way to today when serious hope of resurgence is blossoming in the district. Crown Candy has survived because the Karandzieff family has stayed the course, never wavering, and always maintaining a consistent high quality of all that they serve. At the time George and I created the Johnny Rabbitt Special malt, things were slow at the soda fountain and it seemed that just maybe Crown Candy might only be able to live on by moving. There were those who wanted them to move to Laclede's Landing, Plaza Frontenac, Clayton, etc., but George (one of the finest and sharpest gentlemen I've ever met) decided, along with his family, to stick it out, keep doing what they were doing and the folks would come back...and did they ever. The lessons to be learned from the success and longevity of Crown Candy are to persevere, keep your standards high and maintain a personal relationship with your customers. And it didn't hurt that George and Bessie's boys; Mike, Andy and Tommy are there to continue the family tradition. If you're ever down in the dumps and need a boost, just drop in at Crown Candy, it'll make you happy. Maybe that's part of the secret of their success."




     Another strong supporter of Crown is Ted Foster, owner of Foster’s Funeral Home just down the road. The Foster’s were the first black family to move in the area back in the day. George would notice the neighborhood kids picking on the Foster kids so he’d give the trouble makers the boot. This impressed Mr. Foster and he and George became close friends. Mr. Foster has continued to be one of Crown’s best customers, buying hundreds of pounds of chocolate annually. Also a long time Crown fan is Don Costello, owner of American Foundry, and a neighborhood businessman who has been enjoying daily lunches at Crown for over 70 years.





     Crown Candy is a favorite stop for the locals who want some comfort food (you won’t find boring health food here!) and who want to experience a true St. Louis landmark. Maybe it’s the smothered chili dog, one of a kind BLT (measures 3 inches high!), creamy egg salad sandwich or mouth watering roast beef cheddar melt that will hit the spot. It’s not uncommon to see celebrities or sports figures pop in for a big bowl of chili (yes, it comes with onions and cheese) or other nostalgic food. The story’s told that Bill Murray was once in town shooting a movie and heard about the famous Crown Candy Kitchen and stopped in and ordered 50 malts for his crew. A special item on the menu is the Fire Chief Special named for Neil Svetanics, the former Fire Chief of the City of St. Louis and good friend of George. The sweet concoction is made of two scoops of ice cream covered with chocolate sauce, strawberries, sliced bananas, pecans, crushed nuts, and a mountain of whipped cream! This delight was created as a way to thank the Fire Chief for the help he and his firefighters gave in saving Crown during the fire and to recognize the importance of their profession and it’s one of the most popular sundaes on the menu.




     The regulars know to leave room for a dessert when visiting Crown! Whether you’re craving homemade chocolate candy or a rich 3-scoop malt or milkshake, you can find it here and it’ll be like no other. They produce their own chocolate and ice cream right on site. We were given a rare glimpse of the back rooms of this old historic building not seen by customers and that’s where the action is. As customers enjoy their mile high BLT or ice cream sundae and watch the wait staff who are constantly on the move, the employees in the back rooms are whipping up the meals, stirring the chocolate, pouring molds, and creating mouth watering ice cream flavors. Old copper candy kettles are situated atop a gas burner with ornate cast iron legs from the turn of the century and the scent of milk chocolate permeates the air. This is where the magic happens: the wondrous site of shelving up to the ceiling with hundreds and hundreds of molded Easter chocolate monkeys, penguins, bunnies, and the like is enough to make the chocolate lover salivate. It’s like taking a walk through Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! This place is more than a chocolate lover’s paradise, though; it’s also an ice cream lover’s fantasy. You can choose from 12 flavors of ice cream for malts and milk shakes and 14 varieties of sundaes. They even have a 5-Malt Club Contest for those brave souls who think their stomachs are as big as their eyes. Joey Chestnut, the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating champ, is the current champion of the 5-Malt Club.




     Food establishments who stand the test of time all seem to have long time employees and a dedicated family staff to make it a success and Crown Candy’s no exception. The staff of Crown consists of 25 employees, most have grown up in the neighborhood. Twins Pam and Tammy have worked at Crown for over 30 years. Denice Chaffin, 20+ year employee, is known for her ability to take your order flawlessly without writing it down. The owners, Andy, Tommy, and Mike, are always visible and their mother, Bessie, is the matriarch of the operation. The whole team fare the hectic holiday seasons with Easter being the busiest. In fact, the line of customers to pick up last minute Easter goodies on Good Friday has been known to wrap around the side walk for a block, but it’s worth the wait and everyone leaves happy. Crown consistently delivers a memorable experience for first timers and regulars alike that will keep them all coming back for more.

When you visit, tell any of the Karandzieff brothers, Andy, Tommy or “soda jerk” Mike, that Greg Rhomberg sent you.

Written by Judy Hartman


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Contact Information Crown Candy Kitchen
1401 Saint Louis Ave.
St. Louis, Missouri 63106
Hours of Operation

Summer Hours

Monday - Saturday   10:30 am -10 pm

Sunday  12 pm - 9 pm


Winter Hours

Monday - Thursday   10:30 am - 9 pm

Friday - Saturday  10:30 am - 10 pm

Sunday - 12 pm - 9 pm

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