Jack Carl's2 Plain

A look back at History


     Jack Carl's Two Cents Plain Deli and Sandwich shop had been a St. Louis Tradition since 1950.  Originally located in the popular Gaslight Square, Carl would later relocate downtown.  Before examining Jack Carl and his sandwich shop, it is important to see why Gaslight Square was so significant.

     The Gaslight Square District is situated between the Central West End and Grand Center.  When speaking of Gaslight Square, Post-Dispatch columnist Robert Duffy, writes:


It seemed to have something for everyone -- tourists and a fascinating cross section of locals, college kids and prom-nighters, poets, real and wannabe Bohemians, proto hippies, bikers, Veiled Prophet and other queens, some painters, some poets, some jerks. It was a democratic, forgiving place, diverse before the concept was popularly embraced. There was a class system, however, and to be considered "U," you had to be hip. (Duffy)

     Gaslight Square became 'the place to be' during the late 50's and into the 60's.  From just hanging out at Jack Carl's or the ice cream parlor to to seeing a show at the Crystal Palace, the Square had it all.  Starting out with small local stars, the Gaslights reputation grew from that of a regional status to national and even international status.  The Square attracted famous performers from all around with names such as: "Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce, Miles Davis, Singleton Palmer, and the Smothers Brothers."

     All of these big names drew big crowds, and Jack Carl's 2 Plain was the place that fed them.  Jorge Martinez, a Gaslight Square Owner/Operator, remembers Jack Carl's deli, saying:


He started doing really great business.  I mean fabulous business there because this whole big huge patio area out in front of the two places, the Eagle and the Opera House, with this little space between with his deli, Two Cents Plain...  The people would sit out there and eat their corned beef sandwiches and drink their beer and the music from the Singleton Palmer Band would be wafting out, a great atmosphere.

     The back side of Carl's 2 Plain postcard describes what Jack Carl's was all about, (Pictured Above) stating:

Carl's 2 Plain.  Gaslight Square, St. Louis.  The aroma - the decor - and the tasty N.Y. Style delicatessen selections make 2 Plain a favorite stop for visitors and St. Louisians alike.  featured in national write-ups are those "Mounds of Hot Pastrami and Kosher Corned-Beef Sandwiches."  Refreshments from a bottler's museum-type collection. Buckets of beer.  Open for lunch six days a week and until 2 A.M. at 4239 Gaslight Square, St. Louis 8, MO.  Your Pastrami Slicers - Jack & Charlie Carl.

     After being forced out of Gaslight Square, Jack moved his shop downtown where he made a name for himself with all of the local businessmen.  Jack Carl always had a way with words.  Jack always knew the right thing to say to keep the customers coming back... kind of.  He had a slightly different style of interacting with customers than the traditional form.  He would yell at them, but all in good fun.  If you followed orders and stuck with the norm, you might make it through the line without getting yelled at. However if you declined chips or side when asked by Jack he would say, "No? Then to hell with you, cheapskate ... you're holding up the line."  And if someone asked "what can I get for two cents?"  He'd  yell, "Nothing," condemning them for being dumb enough to ask.  Writing about Jacks witty remarks to his customers, John Bonwhich of the River Front Times wrote, "The jibes are all delivered with a distinct twinkle in his eye."  Jack knew most of his customers by name, they knew his style, and they liked it.

     With the revitalization of downtown St. Louis, and real estate being highly sought after, the aging Jack Carl was made an offer he couldn't refuse, so he sold his building and after 55 year of serving the St. Louis community, Jack Carl retired in October 2005. This months Featured Collection spotlights a few historic pieces of memorabilia, including items that originally came from the walls of Jack Carl's 2 Plain Sandwich Shop, a few original pictures, a postcard, as well as a lighted street sign which our Restoration Team restored.  Click on any of the items below to learn more about them.

Click here for a list of references and other links relating to Jack Carl's and Gaslight Square

Just discovered in our collection, this box of matches from the original Jack Carl's location in Gaslight Square.

Click on any of these items to learn more

Click here to see previously featured items

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