Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It finally died...


It was a cold January day, ninety-nine years ago, when a man named Joe had opened his first restaurant called Garavelli's Cafeteria, on Chippewa Street, in St. Louis.  The world of St. Louis was so different in 1914.  In fact, the City of St. Louis signed in the first charter of the city, in June of 1914.  The landing was called Hooserville, because the poorest people lived near the riverfront.  There was no arch there and the buildings down Washington Avenue were filled with factories and factory workers.  The world of St. Louis was a very different place at that time.  Then, along a lonely stretch of Route 66, in the Southern end of St. Louis, Joe Garavelli opened his restaurant, which was a small cafeteria serving home cooked food.

While never having been there myself, I can say that when I lived in Affton, this place was near just about everywhere I went.  I remembered driving past with my mother when she took my brothers and I clothing shopping at the only JCPenny store, located at Hampton Village, in the 80's.  I also remembered it being close to a row of old and very "Mayberry" looking buildings along that set of small streets that intersect with Route 66.

Many articles, writing on this restaurant closing, are calling it a death by marketing.  I saw one author claiming that had the restaurant spent some money on marketing, they would have lived a bit longer.  Another author was complaining that they died because the menu was as old as the restaurant.  While I may see that while both may seem as valid excuses, I would argue that neither one was as important as updating the building.  One of the new owners was quoted at saying that in summer of 2012, the cost of cooling the restaurant was $6,000 a month.  So, figure there are 4 hot months in St. Louis, and at $6,000 that comes to $24,000 spent that summer alone.  That is a lot of money spent on cooling a small building.  While not knowing how large exactly, I would estimate that the restaurant is no bigger than 2,000 square feet.  Now, I know from personal experience, from when our home AC united under unknown causes in 2012, for $6,000 you can get a new AC unit and blower that can work properly for a 1,600 square foot house.  This restaurant, could have used some of that money to put in the most modern, green AC unit ever.  I'd also go so far as placing some solar panels on the roof as added power creators.  But to no avail...

Now, it is a solid complaint that the owner says that whenever they did change the menu, the clientele complained, and it would make sense that they did so.  With over 80% of their customer base over the age of 65, then of course they would get in a pattern and routine of always eating the same thing and no be okay with change.

I do wish that it lasted a bit longer and I had a chance to check them out.  The thing is like so may of these mostly old-person eateries, is that they are uncomfortable.  Have you ever eaten at any of these very old catered restaurants?  I grew up and worked at an all you can eat restaurant for almost 8 years so I have seen it all when it comes to the old and their food.  But, when you are the only person under 60 in a room filled with old people eating, sometimes I just get a little uneasy.  Also, as far as home-style food is concerned, my family and kids and even I, get home style food at home, so why would we pay for that elsewhere.

Still, like many other places or even historic landmarks in St. Louis, it is sad to see it go.


1 comment:

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