Sand Dollar Restaurant – St. Petersburg, Florida

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FL, St. Petersburg - Sand Dollar Restaurant

Located at 2401 34th St., South in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Sand Dollar Restaurant featured dining, dancing, a rotating Merry-Go-Round lounge and a dining room in a garden setting called The Garden Room that seated 250 people.

The Sand Dollar opened on April 2, 1962. Restaurateur John Dahlberg envisioned a  restaurant that would emphasize moderately-priced family dinner in a modern setting.

Tampa Bay Times, 04 Apr 1962, Wed, Main Edition, Page 48

Tampa Bay Times – April 4, 1962

The round building, meant to resemble a sand dollar, featured numerous big windows that brought a natural light to the restaurant. Wood paneling, then a very a modern addition, lined the walls.

Tampa Bay Times, 24 Jun 1962, Sun, Main Edition, Page 51

Tampa Bay Times – June 24, 1962

A mural depicting an Asian scene by artist Joseph Lefer adorned the round-wall revolving cocktail bar. Piano music from local musician Wanda Poteat filled the restaurant nightly (except on Sundays).

FL, St. Petersburg - Sand Dollar Restaurant 5

The restaurant was a big success. There were three different menus for patrons to enjoy. The luncheon menu was served from 11:30am-3:00pm; dinner menu from 3:00-9:30pm; the night owl menu from 9:30am-2:00pm. On Mondays a 20% discount was offered on drinks in the lounge.

Tampa Bay Times, 20 May 1964, Wed, Main Edition, Page 49

Tampa Bay Times – May 20, 1964

The Sand Dollar was voted the 1962 Restaurant of the Year for St. Petersburg and also received the Coffee Brewing Institute’s “Golden Cup” award. The restaurant hosted hundreds of groups and civic events. In 1964, a 220-pound cake in the shape of the building was made for the two-year anniversary of the opening of the restaurant.

FL, St. Petersburg - Sand Dollar Restaurant 3

Business boomed throughout the 1960s.  The Garden Room was expanded to seat 300. A nautically-inspired dining room called The Galleon Room was added and served an expanded seafood menu.

Tampa Bay Times, 17 Dec 1967, Sun, Main Edition, Page 157

Tampa Bay Times = December 17, 1967

Upholstered dark green banquettes (booths) were added in 1967 for group seating in a more intimate atmosphere.

Tampa Bay Times, 01 Apr 1972, Sat, Main Edition, Page 9

Tampa Bay Times – April 1, 1972

In April 1972, the restaurant celebrated their 10th anniversary the very same way they celebrated their second, with a gigantic birthday cake in the shape of the building. John Dahlberg was ecstatic with the restaurant’s success, but plans would soon be in the works to expand his empire.

Tampa Bay Times, 02 Jul 1973, Mon, Main Edition, Page 34

Tampa Bay Times – July 2, 1973

A second Sand Dollar location was announced in July 1973. This location would be in Jupiter, Florida and would employ more than 100 people in a 14,000 square foot, 400-seat building. The East Coast Sand Dollar opened in January of 1974 on U.S. #1 and Indiantown Road. A $30,000 expansion was announced for the St. Petersburg location. A dance floor, larger bandstands and expanded seating in the Merry-Go-Round Lounge were added. Construction was completed in December, 1975. The addition, of course, was in the shape of a circle. Everything was looking up. Then tragedy struck.

Tampa Bay Times, 19 Jun 1977, Sun, Main Edition, Page 41

Tampa Bay Times – June 19, 1977

On June 18, 1977, 48-year-old John V. Dahlberg, Jr., founder and creator of The Sand Dollar restaurants died after battling an undisclosed illness. Shortly thereafter, Affiliated Property Management Inc. of Tampa took over operations of both restaurants without missing much of a beat. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s and in to the early 1980s, both locations survived an economic downtown and changing tastes with moderately-priced food and dazzling entertainment. But Affiliated Property management was looking to get out. The majority stake in the restaurants were sold in 1982 to Tim Christopolous, a local businessman.

Christopolous was in over his head from the beginning. The Jupiter located was closed almost immediately and was replaced by a restaurant called Cahoots. The St. Petersburg location became a major problem. In May 1985, the IRS placed a $90,143 tax lien on Christopolous for failure to pay taxes from 1982-1984. The restaurant was closed immediately. Florida state senator Mary Grizzle, who had owned a least of part of the restaurant since it originally opened, ended up with control of the building. She could not find a buyer in the now not-as-pleasant part of town and the restaurant and the building sat empty for years. However, she did not pay property taxes on the abandoned building and, in 1992, it was determined she owed $11,724 in past taxes. Grizzle disputed the debts and had the building re-appraised. It appears that she did not settle things entirely.

Tampa Bay Times, 28 Apr 1995, Fri, Other Editions, Page 49

Tampa Bay Times – April 28, 1995

A lien was placed on the property for failure to pay taxes and the City of St. Petersburg took over the rapidly deteriorating building on May 8, 1995. The city didn’t own it for long.

Tampa Bay Times, 27 Dec 1995, Wed, Main Edition, Page 61

Tampa Bay Times – December 27, 1995

The day after Christmas, 1995 an early morning fire completely destroyed the building. The flames were so intense that it took 13 vehicles from five different fire station to control the blaze. The fire was believed to have been started by an arsonist as there was no electricity in the abandoned structure. No one was ever charged with starting the fire.The now burned building sat idle for more than a year until it was raised on March 23, 1997 to make room for a senior-living facility.However, that project fell though after the church that planned on building the care center did not met construction deadlines after the city provided a $300,000 loan to the church. The whole thing was a mess. Nothing ever got built on the property and an empty lot is all that remains. It’s an ignominious end to a once thriving staple of St. Petersburg social and night life.

Tampa Bay Times, 25 Nov 1963, Mon, Main Edition, Page 46

The advertisement that ran in the Tampa Bay Times on November 25, 1963, the day of John F. Kennedy’s funeral

Red Apple Restaurant – Walla Walla, Washington

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For more than five decades, the Red Apple Restaurant served patrons at all hours in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. After years of semi-neglect and mismanagement, the Red Apple closed in late 1999.

In 1948 the a new restaurant was opened at #57 (E. Main St. in downtown Walla Walla). The cafe and fountain, dubbed the Red Apple w under the direct management of popular restaurant Aber Mathison; Baker and Partner Gabe Gross and Fountain Manager and Partner Sam Raguso. The Red Apple was advertised as “Walla Walla’s Ultra Modern Cafe, Catering to People Who Care. Open 7 A.M. to 1 A.M.”

Red Apple opens, 1948

1948 – Photo courtesy of Bygone Walla Walla

 

The restaurant thrived throughout the 1950s, but times were changing and renovations were needed. The fountain was no longer in vogue and something contemporary was needed. The idea was to add wood paneling and a fake apple tree to provide a modern, outdoor atmosphere on Main Street. This postcard, published in 1968, highlights the tree and a modern girl with a late 1960s haircut and fashion to match.

Red Apple

Come and Join Me At
THE RED APPLE
Under the same careful management for twenty years, this fine restaurant, featuring 24-hour service and a conference room, is located at 57 E. Main in downtown Walla Walla where the first business establishment in the city once stood. A real apple tree grew approximately where this lovely artificial tree now stands.

The Red Apple changed ownership numerous times and would struggle to remain open throughout the 90s. According to WW2020, “On January 17, 1991 the Tuckers sold the property to Greg and Gwen Baden for $165,000. On January 28th the Badens were granted a gambling license. In 1996 and 1999 there was city action for failure to pay gambling taxes. During these years the property on the corner was occupied by computer networking, telephone paging,mortgage and advertising businesses. On October 1, 1999 the property was sold by the Badens to Thomas and Amy Glase and Mark T. and Paulette R. Perry for $400,000.”

I ate at the Red Apple numerous times right before they closed. It will also have a soft spot in my heart.

Red Apple restaurant razed, 1999

The Red Apple right after its closure, ca. late 1999/early 2000. Courtesy of Bygone Walla Walla.

BONUS:

A little more info on the building and the history of the Red Apple from WW2020:

Beauty Art was at #59 and the Electric Supply remained at #61 until 1953. The S.E. Washington Fair Association and the Walla Walla Feed Directors Association shared space with the restaurant. In 1954 Herb Himes Hub electrical appliances (and Henry Gies vacuum cleaners) occupied #61. In 1956 DeBunce Studio (photography) occupied #59. These occupants all continued until 1962 when #59 became vacant. On March 21, 1961 Harry Winget sold this property (135.83 feet x 86.78 feet) to Herb Himes for $107,250. In 1968 Himes transferred his interest in the area behind the store to the City of Walla Walla in exchange for the city covering Mill Creek to create a parking lot.

On November 30, 1975 Herb Himes sold his property to Whitman College for $95,888.33. The Hub continued to operated under the ownership of Phil and Sharon Van Houte and Bev and Charles Balmer. Whitman College assigned their contract to Samuel Lewis Raguso for $117,770. Sam Raguso’s estate transferred title on August 26. 1980 to Alan, Rodney and Sam Raguso who sold the property to Ronnie and Terry Tucker on November 16, 1982 for $150,000. China and Things started operations as a gift shop on the balcony at The Hub in 1981. Robert Hanson was the manager of the Red Apple Restaurant and Lounge in 1983. On January 17, 1991 the Tuckers sold the property to Greg and Gwen Baden for $165,000. On January 28th the Badens were granted a gambling license. In 1996 and 1999 there was city action for failure to pay gambling taxes.

 

Minuet Manor Motel & Restaurant – Altoona, Pennsylvania

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I’m back! After a very prolonged absence to due a dog bite, a kidney stone, travel and working on some other exciting projects I am ready to get back to it!

Located on Route 220 between Altoona and Tyrone, Pennsylvania, the Minuet Manor Motel and Restaurant opened in the mid-late 1950s (cannot find an exact date). Offering 79 comfortable rooms and a nice meal, the Minuet was a popular spot for local civic and sorority gathers. The restaurant was not just an ordinary eating spot – there’s something of a twist.

1960-03-29 - Tyrone Daily Herald, 29 Mar 1960, Tue, Page 6

Tyrone Daily Herald, March 29, 1960

The restaurant featured a large collection of pepper mills. According to the verso of the postcard below, The Minuet Manor featured the:

World’s largest collection of unique pepper mills, ranging in size for 3 inches to 7 feet 6-inches. Just one of the many memorable pleasures in store for you at the Minuet Manor is being served freshly ground pepper from this outstanding collection.

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Late 1960s postcard showcasing some of the unusual pepper mills inside the restaurant

The restaurant

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Another postcard view of the pepper mills

The restaurant and motel were a hit throughout the 1960s. Struggling to stay afloat after the gas crisis and a dramatic shift in traveling and dining culture, the Minuet Manor was sold to Arthur and Mary Beth Mittelmark in 1977.

1977-11-02 - Tyrone Daily Herald, 02 Nov 1977, Wed, Page 7

Tyrone Daily Herald – November 2, 1977

With the 1980s and 1990s came hard times for the venerable motel and restaurant. The best I can figure is the restaurant closed sometime in 1980s or 1990s. I may be wrong and if I am please correct me!

In July 1999 six people were arrested at the motel in the largest heroin bust in Blair County (PA) history.

Tyrone Daily Herald,  07 Jul 1999, Wed,  Page 11.jpg

Tyrone Daily Herald – July 7, 1999

The motel underwent new ownership around 2000. The new group cleaned the place up and, according to an ad in the classified section of the Altoona Mirror, offered TOTALY REVOVATED ROOMS! That would not instill me with much confidence.

Altoona Mirror,  15 Apr 2001, Sun,  Page 48.jpg

Altoona Mirror – April 15, 2001

The revovation did not save the motel. The Minuet Manor became a Knight’s Inn before it ultimately closed.

Information on this place is spotty – so if I got something wrong please let me know so I can get it right. If anyone has information on the whereabouts of those pepper mills drop me a line!

Horn & Hardart Automats in Philadelphia

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Horn & Hardart opened their first automat on June 9, 1902. The history of these restaurants and its impact on Philadelphia is beautifully captured in an article by Dr. Stephen Nepa in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. The following section is from that 2013 article:

Beloved by generations of diners and immortalized in art, song, cinema, and poetic verse, Automats, also known as “automatics” or “waiterless restaurants,” were popular manifestations of an early-twentieth century modernizing impulse. Influenced by Frederick W. Taylor’s studies of scientific management and the widespread use of the assembly line, the Automat removed the process of ordering food through a professional waitstaff and allowed customers a faster dining experience via coin-operated vending machines. Designed to streamline dining out while offering a broad choice of freshly prepared menu items, Automats were integral features of Greater Philadelphia’s restaurant industry from the early 1900s through the mid-1960s.

Automats first appeared in Germany and Scandinavia in the 1890s. The first Automat in the United States opened in 1902 near New York’s Union Square. However, it failed to gain mass appeal and closed three years later. The Philadelphia area’s first Automat is credited to Joseph Horn (1861-1941) and Frank Hardart (1850-1918), whose local baking company imported the technology from Quisiana, a Berlin-based manufacturer….

Philadelphian Horn and New Orleans transplant Hardart had operated luncheonettes and bakeries in Center City since partnering in 1888. For their first Automat, they chose a site at 818 Chestnut Street. It proved an immediate sensation. After it debuted June 9, 1902, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Horn and Hardart had solved the city’s “rapid transit luncheon problem” of feeding people on the go. Their official slogan, “less work for mother,” affirmed their goal for faster restaurant service.

818 Chestnut St. – Courtesy of Phillyhistory.org

In 1932, there were over 40 restaurants, of which fewer than 20 were automats, in the Greater Philadelphia area and dozens more in New York. The company was thriving.

However, after the second World War, Horn & Hardart struggled to keep up with modern times. Changing tastes, reliance on automobiles and the flight to the suburbs slowed business. Urban renewal would claim at least one location when the company was forced to closed their commissary to make way for dorms at Thomas Jefferson University. One location at 16th and Chestnut hoped to revive business by selling alcohol, but to no avail.

The original Automat, at 818 Chestnut Street was auctioned off to the highest bidder in 1969. The interior of the venerable old restaurant was donated to the National Museum of American History and everything else sold. Horn and Hardart continued to limp until 1981 when the company filed for bankruptcy. May 12, 1990 saw the last location close it doors, ending the company’s near ninety-year run as Philadelphia eating institution.

This list, compiled from an undated address list and some research. Some locations may be missing. If you know of more, please leave a comment or e-mail me.

Automats/Cafeterias

234 Market St.
339 Market St.
818 Chestnut St.
808 Arch St.
909 Market St.
1508 Market St.
11th & Market Sts.
101 S. Juniper St.
219 S. Broad St.
248 N. Broad St.
1601 Chestnut St.
1815-17 E. Allegheny
11th & Ludlow Sts.
1321 Market St.
5141 Market St.

Cafeterias

104 S. 8th St.
11th & Market Sts.
101 S. Juniper St.
1508 Market St.
5537 Germantown
4670 Frankford Ave.
3413 Woodland Ave.
6826 Market St.
3638 N. Broad St.
219 S. Broad St.
6006 Market St.
14 Broadway

Restaurant Service

136 Market St.
730 Market St.
104 S. 8th St.
26 N. 11th St.
11th & Ludlow Sts.
106 S. 11th St.
101 S. Juniper St.
126 S. 4th St.
244 N. Broad St.
Broad & Chestnut
818 Chestnut St.
1508 Market St.
1601 Chestnut St.
3940 Chestnut St.
4847 N. Broad St.
1429 Arch St.
11 S. 18th St.
23 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore
412 Old York Rd.
54th & City Line

Retail Shops

232 Market St.
732 Market St.
820 Chestnut St.
17 S. 11th St.
1601 Chestnut St.
3951 Market St.
5137 Market St.
6008 Market St.
3634 N. Broad St.
4847 N. Broad St.
5706 N. Broad St.
5539 Germantown
5543 N. 5th Ave.
4647 Frankford Ave.
5233 Frankford Ave.
6828 Market St.
6333 Woodland Ave.
2710 Germantown
5048 Baltimore Ave.
7308 Frankford Ave.
7200 Ogontz Ave.
6038 Castor Ave.
23 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore
881 Main St., Darby
231 Haverford Ave., Narberth
412 Old York Rd., Jenkintown
63rd & Lancaster Ave., Overbrook
16 Broadway, Camden
719 Haddon Ave., Collingswood
144 Kings Highway, E. Haddonfield

Day Old Shops

243 S. 10th St.
108 W. Girard Ave.

The Smorgasphere™

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The rotary Smorgasphere™ was intended to revolutionize the concept of smorgasbords. The Smorgasphere™ was intended to keep food fresh and hot with a rotating buffet. The Smorgasphere™ was intended to bring the future to the late 1960s. The Smorgasphere™ was the future.

In 1966, Donald Wulff, owner of Don’s Colonial House restaurant in Manteno, Illinois came up with an new concept in buffet dining. He spent months designing and building a pilot model for his his restaurant. The new idea was called The Smorgasphere.™

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The pilot model of The Smorgasphere™ located in Don’s Colonial House, Manteno, Illinois

The idea behind the Smorgasphere™ was fairly simple. It was a buffet that was half in the kitchen and half in the dining area that could be rotated 180 degrees to keep food fresh and mess at a minimum. In 1967, after the success of the pilot model, Wulff patented and trademarked the Rotary Smorgasphere.™

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The slideshow above is the entire patent for Wulff invention. It’s fascinating to see the dimensions and the overall size of the the rotating beast.

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Jacksonville Daily Journal – October 8, 1967

Shortly after filing for a patent, Wulff placed ads in regional newspapers attempting to franchise his revolutionary concept.

An investment of $25,000 was required to have a Smorgasphere™, presumably just to pay for the construction of the machine and designing a space that accommodate it. I have not found an evidence that any took Wulff up on his franchising opportunity.

The concept did catch the idea of the Rotary Club magazine called the Rotarian, as a brief mention the Smorgasphere™ appeared in the March, 1968 issue.

smorgasphere

The Rotarian – March 1968

What happened after the Smorgasphere™ didn’t take off? Short answer is that I don’t know. I cannot find any mention of Don’s Colonial House or the Smorgasphere™ after 1968. I cannot even find an address for the restaurant. The address in the personal ad must have been a business office.

unused-pre-1980-don-s-colonial-house-restaurant-manteno-illinois-il-v8366-6448b77c2cbaa5e5ec4dacb06b053fe0

Terapeak.com

The only thing I was able to find was a postcard image of the Colonial House Smorgasphere™ sometime later. The entire thing has a different. Gone is the red and white coloring, the bubble top and sleek styling.

The one in the postcard shows the ubiquitous 1970s wood panelling, a scalloped top with lighting and completely covered dome. I cannot tell from the image if it evens rotates anymore.

If I can track down this card then maybe I can figure those questions out. Maybe it holds the key as to what happened to the revolving revolution in buffet dining.

 

 

 

Mechanafe – Boise, Idaho

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WHERE THE WORLD MEETS TO EAT

  • 100% Waiterless Restaurant
  • It’s Electrical
  • It’s Fascinating
  • It’s Sanitary
  • It’s Beautiful
  • It’s Mechanical
  • It’s Novelty
  • It’s Progress
  • It’s The Show Place of Idaho

These words appeared on the back of a 1941 postcard advertising Boise, Idaho’s only mechanical cafe cleverly dubbed the Mechanafe. For more than a decade, the Mechanafe provided Idaho’s capitol city with 100% waiterless, buffet-style food.

The original Mechanafe was opened by Charles G. Hall in 1929 at 916 North Main Street, right next to the Idanha Hotel. The restaurant would relocate after a few years and eventual settle just down the street in downtown Boise at 211 North 8th Street.

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Postcard showing the 1930s interior of the Mechanafe.

The concept was fairly similar to the Merry-Go-Round Cafes that would open at almost the exact same time. Patrons would sit at their tables and two conveyor belts,  one for food and one for dishes would pass directly next to the customer. The concept is slightly similar to automats, except with the conveyor belt system, the customer never had to get up for anything.

Cost of the food was cheap. Originally, it only cost 25 cents per meal, a bargain even for that time. The price was kept low in order to lure customers into the restaurant during the Great Depression. The price would go up a dime throughout the 30s, but the locals still came.

A variety of meats, salads and desserts were available. The restaurant cleverly put the most expensive food near the end of the belt rotation.The thought was customers would grab the food available to them first and not fill on the nicer things. Glass panels on all sides of the conveyor kept food clean and could be easily pushed in when the customer found something they wanted to eat.

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Postcard of the Mechanafe. If you look next to the patrons you can see the glass-paneled conveyor belt system.

In order to maintain cleanliness, the belt was cleaned with bleach every Sunday evening and the glass panel shined and polished.

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A typhoid outbreak in the 1930s caused a bit of a panic and kitchen members were ordered to be tested for typhoid and for syphilis in order to not spread the disease very slowly around the restaurant.

Charles Hall sold the restaurant in 1934. The new owners kept the restaurant humming along. Nearly 250,000 customers were served in 1940. The future looked bright. Enter World War II. War time rationing raised the price of food and the restaurant was not permitted to raise the price of meals. The Mechanafe was doomed. Within six months the restaurant would be closed forever and forgotten almost as quickly.

The Mechanafe is somewhat forgotten. Save for a couple of postcards and a matchbook that I have collected over the years, information and ephemera from the waiterless restaurant are scarce. I found a couple of articles that were a big help to me on this post but not much else remains.

The original building that housed the mechanical cafe was razed years ago. The last location has housed a series of restaurants and is still standing with no evidence that the future of food service was once housed inside.

Merry-Go-Round Cafes

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The Los Angeles Times – July 15, 1930

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 Los Angeles Times – July 15, 1930

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.

The Los Angeles Times – April 27, 1930

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:

  1. 245 E. 1st St. – Long Beach
  2. 122 American Ave. – Long Beach
  3. 538 S. Spring Street – Los Angeles
  4. 1304 S. Figueroa – Los Angeles
  5. 639 S. La Brea – Los Angeles
  6. 672 S. Vermont – Los Angeles
  7. 2nd and James Street – Seattle, Washington
  8. 171 O’Farrell Street – San Francisco
  9. Denver, Colorado
  10. 137 W. Ocean St. – Huntington Park
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Merry-Go-Round Cafe – San Francisco, California

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.

Long Beach Independent – September 15, 1938

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.

Diamonds Restaurant and Inn – Villa Ridge, Missouri

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The Banana Stand opened in Villa Ridge, Missouri about 35 miles west of St. Louis in 1923. The small roadside stand owned and operated by Spencer and Ursula Groff was an big hit.  Every year the place expanded. In the 1930s the now restaurant was renamed The Diamonds. In 1947, The Diamonds were serve a record 1,480,000 customers. Everything was looking great. Luck would change for The Diamonds on February 28, 1948. A fire decimated the restaurant, gutting it beyond repair. But that would not be the end of the story. The Diamonds would reopen bigger and better than ever.

The St. Louis Star and Times – July 1, 1949

 

Former Banana Stand busboy Louis Eckelkamp was in charge of the restaurant at the time of fire and he vowed to make a new, bigger restaurant with everything needed for the traveling tourist.

The new Diamonds Restaurant opened on July 10, 1949 at its new location on U.S. Highway 50 and Route 66. The new fireproof building cost around $350,000 to erect. It contained a full basement, first floor seating for nearly 400 people, a coffee shop, cafeteria, curio shop, drive-in cafe, bus ticket office, travel bureau, popcorn stand and filling station. It was truly one-stop shop.

Upon opening, it was approximated that 75 buses a day stopped at The Diamonds, bringing the restaurant nearly 5,500 customers a day. The locals would also frequent the restaurant, knowing that that a pleasant atmosphere and good food could be found there.

The restaurant thrived for over 20 years at that location, but in 1971 The Diamonds had dreams of expanding. An even newer restaurant and motel would be built just slightly down the road on the more-traveled Interstate 44 and Grey Summit Interchange just off of Route 66.

The old building would become the Tri-Country Truck Stop. The restaurant building/truck stop would close in 2006. The building still stands and is said to be haunted. Supposedly, there is an apparition at the old restaurant and another presence nicknamed George. George has been “known” to get a little ghost-handsy with women. The old site is alleged to open sometime this year.

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The motel featured 162 units and a pool. The new location offered more gas services and advertised itself as the closest fuel/lodging location to Six Flags. The new location, however would suffer. The fuel crisis of 1973, along with a crippling recession slowed traffic to a crawl. The Diamonds had been successful for so long that they were able to weather it, but they would never be the same.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, business had slowed to such a crawl that the decision was made to close the place down. The third Diamonds would sit idle for a bit and ultimately be torn down. The motel is still standing and is now the Travelodge Six Flags/Grey Summit.