Inside St. Louis

The Fountain on Locust

An original water color of The Fountain by local artist Marilynne Bradley.





     The heartbeat of the heart of The City as become significantly stronger with the opening of the retro-style Fountain on Locust. This nifty nook is quickly finding a niche in the dining scene with its unique amalgamation of soda fountain, restaurant, candy shoppe, cocktail lounge, restaurant and resurrected historic property. The Fountain’s significant salute to genteel times gone-by is no slapped together, poorly planned project, but one that’s been in the works for some two years under the tutelage and guidance of owner Joy Grdnic Christensen. Joy, a restaurateur for the first time, followed the philosophy of the phrase “Inch by inch is a cinch, mile by mile takes a while.” Therefore the gestation of The Fountain, was a process similar to the slogan “ Slow and Careful” that was the motto of the once upon a time Arthur J. Anderson laundry at 4940 Washington Blvd. This slogan and Anderson’s turtle “mascots,” still grace the front of their old building.




     The Fountain edifice is in the Mission Revival style with green tile roof, white terra-cotta trimmed light gray facade with automobile showroom style windows at street level. These windows are shaded by a black awning trimmed with small white lights and on the second level there are four windows decorated with black wrought iron emulating balconies. A cherubic face gazes down from near the top of the building seemingly joyful to be part of the unexpected revitalization of its home and of much of the street it surveys. When you enter the vestibule you’re “greeted” by a classic wooden cabinet General-Electric console radio that hearkens from the pre-TV Golden Age of Radio. The radio fits right into the theme of The Fountain but it’s also indicative of what happens on the second floor of the building; but more about that later.




     Inside The Fountain becomes a breathtaking overt tribute to the Art Deco style with just a hint of fauvism making it feel that this is a place time forgot. Carefully collected vintage-style light fixtures hang from the lofty heights of the ceiling as others grace the soda fountain, centerpiece of the dining room, as well as the tucked-in-an-alcove bar. Antique inspired lighting is also at most of the booths. These booths are reminiscent of places such as the old Rex Café at Olive St. and Newstead Aves. or the Blue Moon Café which was on Delmar Blvd. just east of Hamilton Ave. Grab a comfy spot at a table with heavy dark wooden chairs, slip into a dark wood booth or hoist yourself up on a black and chrome stool at the soda fountain where the Fountainettes can mix as many as a half dozen milkshakes or malts at a time. Black and chrome ceiling fans pick up the theme of the stools. Before you review the menu gaze around the two story high room and take in the art and creativity of Joy’s fresco style murals highlighted by figures that seem to have been inspired by both Russell Markert’s Missouri Rocket Girls, from the Missouri Theatre on Grand Blvd. (they would become the Radio City Rockettes) and Busby Berkeley choreographed movies. The room’s color scheme is principally a strong cerulean with burnished gold, soft pale-silvery gray clouds and ceiling, with complementary Earth-tone colors that meld in such a way with the bijouterie as to be somewhat reminiscent of the Fox Theatre or the Legacy Room, the memorabilia room, of the Chase Park-Plaza Hotel.




     The pull of the past is irresistible in The Fountain just as it is on Locust St. from midtown to downtown with its Rip Van Winkle aura as if much of the street is waking from a long slumber. Dozens of the buildings along a dozen blocks of Locust St. were built during the teens and twenties for various entities related to the then relatively new automobile industry. So Locust was quickly and justly dubbed Automobile Row at a time when St. Louis was as important in car manufacturing as Detroit. The 2 story structure that on its first floor houses The Fountain was designed by one of our town’s 20th century architectural stars; Preston J. Bradshaw. A multitude of Bradshaw buildings remain for us to enjoy such as the Chase and Mayfair Hotels, Coronado, Paul Brown and Forest Park apartments and others, including several on Automobile Row. The Fountain edifice was built by the B. J. Charleville Construction Co. in 1918 for the Supreme Motor Co., the area dealer/distributor for the Stutz automobile. It remained the Stutz home until 1924. If you came in late, the Stutz, manufactured in Indianapolis from 1911 to 1935, was noted for its Bearcat and Blackhawk open speedster models. This brand; along with others such as Peerless, Marmon, Pierce-Arrow, Durant, Gardner, Star and Franklin were felled by the Great Depression. Other cars sold on The Fountain’s block of Locust St. included those of Nash, Ajax, Ford, Hupmobile, Cord, Auburn, Maxwell, Chalmers, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Velie, Scripps-Booth, Cole, Stearns-Knight, Lexington, Gardner, Inter-State and Hug trucks.




     For several blocks along Locust most of the buildings with an auto history connection have been marked with commemorative informational plaques created by the Horseless Carriage Club of Missouri and Ben Hilliker of the commercial real-estate firm of Hilliker Corporation. And on the occasions, when antique car collectors host vintage auto shows on Automobile Row, a Stutz motor-car will invariably be positioned in front The Fountain, seemingly pleased that its old home has been reborn. 




     The building just to the east of The Fountain has a history that in some ways mimics that of The Fountain’s location. This neighbor building was home of the Locomobile, so named because it was akin to a locomotive as it was originally a steam powered car. The Locomobile was manufactured from 1899 to 1929. After ’29 the building became home to the Davis Six and Maibohm autos. They didn’t see the end of the Depression. But what started during WWII is an interesting parallel to The Fountain building’s story. The Locomobile building became home of Premier Film and Recording Studios operated by Wilson and Grace Dalzell and in it some of the more important local radio shows and commercials, television programs and commercials, films, videos and recordings were made. For example Premier did Marlin Perkin’s “Wild Kingdom” for television, the first radio and TV commercials for Busch Bavarian beer, the first television spots using the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, the “Lutheran Hour” radio programs and some of “The Land We Live In” radio shows that aired from 1943 to 1952 always under the sponsorship of Union Electric. Many local and national recording artists used Premier Studios such as Chuck Berry, Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, Miles Davis, Russ David, Ike & Tina Turner and dozens more. The basement housed a screening room where from the ‘40s into the ‘80s hundreds of new movies were previewed for the media and reviewers.




     Here’s why The Fountain building has a close connection to the history of the Locomobile building and Premier Studios. First, they were both auto dealerships and for the last couple of years the second floor of what is now The Fountain has been headquarters for All Star Radio Networks, a company that syndicates various types of radio shows and features, many of them comedic, for radio stations in the USA and other countries. They provide over 700 radio stations with program content and other services on a daily basis. Joy and her husband Ron Christensen, along with a professional staff of broadcasters run All Star Radio. You’ll notice some broadcast studio-like windows on the second story level of the north wall of The Fountain. Behind the glass is All Star Radio. You usually can’t see them at work, unless they peek down at you and wave. Wave back, They’re friendly. A sample of their efforts can be accessed by speakers at some of the booths on the west wall of the dining room. You can tune into an All Star custom feature titled “Soap Hospital.” It’s the only restaurant radio comedy serial anywhere.




     OK, we’ve toured Locust, paid a visit to All Star Radio, examined the restaurant, but we haven’t had a bite to eat. But hold on. I hope you fed the parking meter! St. Louis City treasurer Larry Williams decided to plant those just about the time The Fountain was getting underway. The city sure knows how to help new businesses get off the ground. Now, maybe they could plant some trees. But don’t despair if you’re without change as there’s free parking on Cardinal Ave. just one door west. By the way Cardinal was named for Frenchman Jean Cardinal who was killed along with 2 to 3 dozen others in a 1780 Indian attack when we were a village of 500 persons. As you peruse the menu, and there are day and night versions, you’ll enjoy vintage music from the 1920s into the 1960s. Although the décor is old-fashioned, the menu is thoroughly modern and eclectic. Here are some lunch suggestions. Consider either the Williamsburg Inn creamy roasted peanut soup or the secret recipe Polish Dill pickle soup. They sound eccentric, but they’re good. I’d opt for the Pick Two. This gets you half a sandwich and either a cup of soup or a half salad. If you don’t go for soup try the Fountain Salad. Chef Natalia Penchaszadeh, Queen of the Argentine, loads up some lettuce with herb marinated chicken, diced apples, Kirsch poached cherries, Parmesan cheese and walnuts with a citrus dressing. For a hot sandwich consider The Blackhawk, named for the car that once graced the showroom in which you’re seated. You get roast beef, layers of roasted red peppers and a blend of goat cheese, olive oil, garlic (not too much) and fresh basil. It’s served on Cuban bread. Mellow-out with an Orange Dreamcicle Martini or a Cuba Libra or go for a non-alcoholic libation such as a chocolate phosphate just like they used to make at the yesteryear drug-store soda fountains like the Olympia Pharmacy in the old Olympia Apartment building at Vandeventer Ave. and W. Pine Blvd. or the Sturgis Drug store at S. Grand Blvd. and Lafayette St.  The Fountain’s ice cream comes from a dairy in Wisconsin and you can get it hand-packed by the pint or quart. And The Fountain folks even make their own chocolate candies. Finish off your repast with caffeine free Frutti del Bosco tea made with mixed berries or get a caffeine kick with a cup of Cortado. That’s Espresso with a spoon of milk.




     If nighttime is the right time for you, you’ll find some fine fare from which to choose. My call on a hot summer’s eve before the Muny would be to start with the Stutz salad with a creamy marmalade dressing over Mandarin oranges, walnuts and goat cheese on baby spinach. Then you could move on to the Onion Comfit cheese Empanadas with red and yellow onions in wine with melted mozzarella cheese. A cold bottle of O’Fallon Peach Wheat beer would go nicely with this combo. And the evening menu still has all the ice cream treats from malts to banana splits and even the World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae. If you’re a fancier of Almond Joy candy bars you shouldn’t pass up the Coconut Almond Joy sundae. It’s made with coconut almond ice cream topped with The Fountain’s rich home made hot fudge, real whipped cream and chocolate coins. The Fountain would be a nice dining destination after a show or concert on a Friday or Saturday as they’re there ‘til midnight. Or just drift back to a simpler time when gas was 19 cents a gallon and wind down with a Gin Ricky or Manhattan.




     To be honest, my favorite time at The Fountain is mid-afternoon for a chocolate malted milk as I concentrate on creating a Johnny Rabbitt Special. I’ll look for you. Oh, some of the characters you might find at The Fountain include Mary Strauss of the Fabulous Fox, organ star Stan Kann, DJ David Craig and food fan Joe Pollack. And at whatever your favorite time might be to relive the good old days you’ll find that friendliness and cleanliness is de rigueur, as it was in places such as the old Pevely Dairy ice cream shop at the dairy’s headquarters at Grand Blvd. and Chouteau Ave. The entire Fountain facility, from the black and white tile floor, in the style of the showroom’s original flooring, to the counters and table tops are kept spotless and inviting. And the seemingly omnipresent proprietress Joy whose joie de vivre is intoxicating, flits around the room greeting all guests with her infectious smile and sincere welcome. She IS happy that you came to visit and I believe you’ll be happy to have found another special St. Louis destination.




     And whatever you do, whenever you go, you’ve got to at least peek in the bathrooms. That’s all I’ll say.



Written by Johnny Rabbitt

Click here to view all of the images from The Fountain on Locust.


Contact Information The Fountain on Locust
3037 Locust St.
St. Louis, Missouri 63106
314-535- 7800

Hours of Operation Tuesday & Wednesday   11 am -10 pm

Thursday, Friday & Saturday  11 pm - Midnight

Closed Sunday and Monday

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