In 1930 a chain of “revolutionary”cafes opened in the West. Gustav and Gertrude Kramm’s idea of an cafe that served food on a rotating conveyor belt would be a smash hit and fade away in a short time.
The very first Merry-Go-Round Cafe location opened on January 1, 1930 at 245 East First Street in Long Beach, California Revolving Table Cafés, Ltd. was the name of the parent company that owned the idea. The restaurant was the first to be opened but was never intended to be the only one. Franchising began almost immediately.
In April, 1930, as the franchise was hitting stride, the corporation started by the Kramms would open a revolving table manufacturing plant in South Gate. Seven cafes would open in a six month span and the revolving table was a smash hit.
The concept was a hit. The concept was intriguing and the food cheap, which was a hit during the early days of the Depression that ravaged 1930s. Lunch would only cost 35 cents, and dinner with an entree, salad and sides would only run 50 cents.
By the end of 1930, the now thriving chain would sponsor the Ralph and May Weyer Show on Los Angeles radio station KREG. The couple were semi-well known vaudeville and radio entertainers. The attention would grow the brand even further.
Within a year, there would be several Merry-Go-Cafes located in the West. These are the locations I have found so far. I have a feeling there are more, so this list may be amended later:
- 245 E. 1st St. – Long Beach
- 122 American Ave. – Long Beach
- 538 S. Spring Street – Los Angeles
- 1304 S. Figueroa – Los Angeles
- 639 S. La Brea – Los Angeles
- 672 S. Vermont – Los Angeles
- 2nd and James Street – Seattle, Washington
- 171 O’Farrell Street – San Francisco
- Denver, Colorado
- 137 W. Ocean St. – Huntington Park
In 1931, the revolving table concept was taken up a notch. The new idea involved conveyors on two levels. The top layer displayed sandwiches, salads, and desserts and the bottom was solely for taking dirt dishes back to the kitchen. The entire thing moved slowly and easily enough for people to grab there food and dispense of their dishes without any major effort.
Business thrived through the early 1930s. As the Depression began to take hold and the fad of automated cafeterias fizzled out, the franchises started to struggle. In some locations the prices for lunch a dinner dropped by a nickle each. It didn’t matter.
One by one the individual locations would close.The final location to close was the 137 W. Ocean Avenue location in Long Beach. New owners took over the fledgling restaurant in 1938. It appears that that location remained open at least until October of 1943.
There was a Merry Go Round Cafe in San Bernadino that was open in the late 1940s and early 50s but I think it just had the same name.