Thursday, January 29, 2015

Not White Castles... But Blue Castles

From time to time, I receive photos and reminisces from people who graciously allow me to share them on the blog with my readers. Here's one of them.

The subject of the above photograph is a restaurant with Castle in its name. But it's not the Castle, or even a White Castle – it's the Blue Castle.

Linda Ellis sent me the above photo in a recent email. According to Linda, it's circa 1950 and depicts the inside of the Blue Castle restaurant in Lorain. Her aunt,  Helen Zagorsky Hendry, is standing to the right of the restaurant's owners, Edward and Loretta.

I'd heard of the Blue Castle, but it wasn't until I did a little research for this post that I discovered that there were several restaurants in the area by that name. The earliest appearance was the Blue Castle Sandwich Shop in the 1945-46 Elyria City Directory. The restaurant was run by Al Kaufer and was located at 588 W. Broad in Elyria.
October 26, 1945 ad from the Chronicle-Telegram
By the time of the 1947 directories, the Blue Castle name has disappeared from the Elyria book and resurfaced in the Lorain edition. The Blue Castle Sandwich Shop was located at 116 West Erie and was run by Robert L. Haff and Joseph S. Downie.

You can see the Blue Castle Sandwich Shop's neon sign
at the left hand side of the building; a bus is parked in front of it on West Erie
Strangely enough, in that very same 1947 edition, Eddie's Blue Castle – run by Edward and Loretta Easton – was listed at 723 Broadway.
May 24, 1946 ad from the Lorain Journal
By the time of the 1950 Lorain directory, the Blue Castle Sandwich Shop was still at 116 West Erie, but it looks like thar wasn't room enough in this hyar town for two Blue Castle's – so one had to go. Eddie Easton's business became listed in the book as Eddie's Confectionery. His business also moved to 611 Broadway.

Within two years, the Blue Castle name would disappear entirely from the Lorain city directories. The Butterfry (there's a healthy-sounding name for a restaurant) replaced it at 116 West Erie.

Thanks to Linda Ellis for sharing one of her cherished family photos.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tradewinds Update

No doubt about it – my effort to determine the location of the Tradewinds supper club on Griswold in Elyria during the mid-1980s is stirring up a lot of interest. I received several emails from regular readers of my blog trying to help.

Local historian Matt Weisman remembers eating there, and believes it was located on Griswold on the east side of Route 57, ironically near the location of the old Sveden House building (which I wrote about last week). It's certainly possible, since the addresses on Griswold are so scrambled that it is virtually impossible to rule out anything.

Regular blog reader and research contributor Rick Kurish has furnished me with the names of the owners of the Tradewinds. Two of them are deceased for sure; consequently, I've reached out to members of their family via Facebook, but I haven't heard back yet. (I'm hoping that my Facebook messages aren't going to languish in their "Other" folders. I've had people find messages from me in that folder years after I sent them!)

And the webmaster of the Oberlin in the Past Facebook page is asking around, and even sent me a photo of a Griswold Road building that might have housed the restaurant.

But the research continues at the library. I've cross-referenced all phone numbers associated with the business to no avail. It's like they were never even hooked up.

It seems that prior to the Tradewinds, the only business associated with the 41274 Griswold Road address was a vineyard/farm in the 1970s. The classified ad below ran in the Chronicle-Telegram on August 31, 1970.

I did discover that besides being listed in the 'Restaurants' category, Tradewinds was also listed in the 'Caterers' category of the 1986 Elyria phone book (below).

I've also made the trek to the Elyria Public Library, expecting to solve the mystery through its collection of city directories. But it turns out that the library's collection of Elyria directories is even more anemic than that of the Lorain Public Library; there are no Elyria directories at all from 1980 to 1986!

Although it appears that the Tradewinds wasn't around very long (since it was just in the 1985 and 86 phone books), the idea of the restaurant was much older. This May 17, 1980 article that appeared on the front page of the Chronicle-Telegram (below) makes reference to it. It seems to infer that the restaurant was related to the large Cassell development project that stretched back along Leona Street north of Griswold on the west side of Route 57.

The restaurant was going to cost a quarter of a million dollars!

Anyway, we love a mystery on this blog, and we'll have an answer sooner or later. I'm just wondering if the elaborate Tiki-inspired building was even built.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"They loved us at Chicken Manor"

1973 Elyria Phone Book ad
When I saw this yellow page ad (above) for Chicken Manor recently while doing research at the library, I had to chuckle. But before you think I'm a dumb cluck, let me explain.

Back here, I told you how in the mid-1970s, I was a trumpeter/trombonist with the Four Links, a dance/polka band made up of high school students from Avon Lake and Lorain (including my friend Bob Berstling). My recruitment for the band came about because their trumpeter had gone off to college.

To help me learn the tunes and get me up to speed, we practiced a couple times a week. During these sessions, the other Links would regale me – as the new guy – with stories about various gigs.

I'll never forget that the one gig they got misty-eyed about was the time they played Chicken Manor.

"They loved us at Chicken Manor," Bob reminisced, sounding like an old vaudeville performer reminiscing about his showbiz career.

Feb 14, 1975 ad from the Chronicle-Telegram
Bob explained how the audience there was literally eating out of their hand. Every tune they performed (including the Chicken Dance, I assume) was apparently received with great enthusiasm and applause. I would hear this story many times.

Unfortunately, when I played out with the Four Links, I never witnessed that kind of adoration from the crowds we played for. (Maybe I was the weak Link.) Many times, the indifferent members of the audience would barely look up from their rum and Cokes.

Unlike the group's success at the Chicken Manor gig, we laid many an egg at clubs and halls all over Lorain County.

Thus, in my mind, Chicken Manor achieved mythical status as the place where the Four Links – for one brief, shining moment – were on top of the world musically. Sadly, the Four Links never performed there again during the short time that I was a member.

I'm not sure how long Chicken Manor remained in business. I know that it lasted into the 1980s.
Sept. 16, 1980 ad from the Chronicle-Telegram
One online source (the Fields Church Newsletter of October 1952) states that Chicken Manor was preceded at its 34139 Center Ridge address by Bess & Andy's, and that it was succeeded by Santa Fe Express and finally, Buffalo Wild Wings.

Today, the scene of the Links' greatest musical triumph is gone. A retail strip center sits at Chicken Manor's former location on Center Ridge Road in North Ridgeville.

Courtesy Google

Monday, January 26, 2015

Kathe Kreuzer's Country Place

Ad from the June 21, 1955 Lorain Journal and the Lorain Times-Herald
I had seen this ad for Kathe Kreuzer's Country Place at the Lorain Public Library (in one of the vintage newspapers on display upstairs) for several years now, each time wondering if the place was still around and what it was known as today. So I thought it would be a good time to finally find out, since I seem to be focusing on restaurants lately.

The above ad – which ran in the Lorain Journal on June 21, 1955 – tells the history of the place up to that point. As the headline noted, the restaurant had been a Lorain County landmark for 36 years, which dates it back to 1919. The ad copy reads, "KATHE KREUZER'S COUNTRY PLACE – all that a famous name implies. Here you will find a menu and a hospitality that has delighted many a gourmet for the past thirty - six years. Mr. Carl Wriedt the owner of Kathe Kreuzer's appreciates the discriminating tastes of these many people and consequently has striven to preserve those features that have made Kathe Kreuzer famous in Ohio... namely FINE FOOD and WONDERFUL HOSPITALITY. THE COUNTRY PLACE is truly picturesque and the setting reminds you of some elegant inn situated on the outskirts of some Bavarian town. Once inside you're impressed with the quaint decor of this inn and you are pleasantly charmed by the furnishings. You look around and see many family groups and couples enjoying their dinners. The superb cuisine, the unexcelled hospitality and the fine setting all blend into a wonderful atmosphere that makes KATHE KREUZER'S COUNTRY PLACE a fascinating and interesting place to dine. We can seat a capacity crowd of 350 so call Avon 48-292 for a reservation today.

Who was Kathe Kreuzer? I'm not sure – I'm assuming it was the person who started the business. Perhaps someone with knowledge of Avon history will add a comment some day to this post. But with a distinctive name like that, it's not surprising that the name was kept.

Here's a few ads from the 1950s.
November 1955 Lorain phone book ad
May 11, 1956 Chronicle-Telegram ad
In 1963, Kathe Kreuzer's was purchased by John W. Miller, who had previously been associated with Miller's Dining Room in Lakewood. Here's a photo of the restaurant at the time of the purchase. (The photo appears courtesy of ClevelandMemory.org.)
The place became known as Miller's Country Place. Here's an ad from 1964 (below).
October 24, 1964 Chronicle-Telegram ad
It's easy to find many online references to Miller's Country Place through the decades, as it was a popular place for luncheons and parties. (I remember the name and know that I played there too, as a member of either a big band or a polka band.)
Businesses located there after Miller's Country Place include Fox & Crow Restaurant and until recently, Winking Lizard
Courtesy Lorain County Auditor website
But with the Winking Lizard's recent move to a brand new Avon location, the building is slated to soon become the home of Farmhouse Tavern.
I drove by the building on the way home from work the other night to capture this snowy, sunset shot (below).
It's great to see the old place still in use after almost a hundred years, still providing enjoyment to guests in what is still a beautiful country setting.

****
UPDATE (January 27, 2015)
It appears that the business was more commonly known as Katie Kreuzer's Country Place, according to earlier ads and city directory listings that I have discovered since my original post.

A 1948 Lorain County directory has it listed by that name with Ludwig Kreuzer as the owner. Also, the Westlake High School Panorama Yearbook - Class of 1949 includes an ad for Katie Kreuzer's Country Place that states that it was established in 1919. Ludwig Kreuzer is again listed as the owner, and Adam Hampel is identified as the manager.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sveden House Waitress Moved, By Yiminy

By the way, while researching Sveden House for thes last two posts, I made an amusing discovery. There are actually two versions of the vintage postcard with the blond waitress.
In the version below (courtesy of the card cow.com website), she stands next to the buffet line at the far left.

Yet in this more commonly found version of the postcard (below), she's been repositioned to the right. And with no Photoshop back then, the camera man or commercial artist had to outline her by cutting an overlay and knocking her out of another photo showing just the food – just the way we'd have done it at work in 1985.)

Why did they create a second version? My guess is that whatever that is behind her in the top postcard was no longer being offered as a buffet item. At first glance, I thought it was a pile of raw cuts of beef – but a closer look reveals that it's probably watermelon slices. 
Neither one would appeal to me in a buffet line anyway. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sveden House – or is it Sweden House? Part 2

Sveden House enjoyed a fairly long run at its location by Midway Mall. Lorain Countians like to eat, and must have been dying for a good smorgasbord restaurant.

My parents took us there a few times in the early years. (My brothers and I could really tie on the feedbag when we were in high school, so I'm sure my parents got their money's worth.) I remember having to wear sport coats and ties there. (In fact, we seemed to almost always dress that way, even if we were going somewhere casual – like McGarvey's in Vermilion – where we stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of T-shirts.)

Anyway, here's another Sveden House Thanksgiving ad, this time from the late 1970s (below). It's much more ornate than the 1972 version.
November 23, 1977 ad from the Chronicle-Telegram
Sveden House continued to appear in the phone book until it disappeared in the 1984-85 edition. It was replaced in the 1986 book by the Mark Restaurant and Lounge.
Unfortunately, the Mark didn't last very long. By the time of the 1989 city directory, the building's new address – 40844 Griswold – had gone vacant.
By the 1990s, the building had another address – 451 Griswold – and several more businesses tried to make a success of it there. Beginning in the 1991 book, Dinosaur Kiddyland Restaurant and Amusement called the 451 Griswold address home for a year or two. The building was listed "not verified" in the 1994 book, before Fun Times appeared in the 1996 book.
There were no listings at all from 1998 on, until Jumbo Buffet appeared in the 2002 book and returned the building to its roots. The buffet continued to appear until 2011, when it briefly shared a listing with New Star Buffet.
Here's the photo from the Lorain County Auditor's website (below) of the New Star Buffet. You can see the silhouette of the Sveden House logo in the design of the illuminated light box on the front of the building.
And here's my recent photo (below) from a week ago or so. 
Unfortunately, I don't believe that the buffet is still open. When I dialed the restaurant's number on Wednesday evening, I found myself connected with the answering machine of a healthcare company.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sveden House – or is it Sweden House? Part 1

I received an email a few weeks ago from a gentleman with a question about a local smorgasbord (or borgasmord, if you're Mason Reese) restaurant. As a result, I ended up compiling a rough timeline of Sveden House, which was located on Griswold Road near Midway Mall.

A nice history of Sveden House was published in the Waterloo Courier of November 4, 1974. It read, "The Sveden House Smorgasbord began as a single unit in Duluth. Minnesota, in a restaurant operation known then as the "Plaza Dining Room." It was a full service restaurant that also had a short buffet line incorporated into its operation. In spite of good management, however, the operation was going bankrupt in the very difficult winter months in Duluth. The owner operators of the unit, in desperation, after an all night "Prayer" meeting, decided the next day to change the operation into a strictly "One low price, all you care to eat "Smorgasbord" style unit. It was their desire to serve the whole "family unit" delicious food at a lower reasonable price and thereby generate enough volume to also make the unit profitable.

Vintage postcard
"The change in the total business was almost "over-night" and quite dramatic. From a condition of near bankruptcy, to a profit month in the middle of winter, in Duluth, became a reality in spite of it being thought impossible. After about a year of further refining and developing the operation, it was decided upon to open a like unit in Minneapolis and give it a try. It was from the fantastic success there also that it blossomed into the nationally enfranchised chain that it is today."

It's interesting that you can find vintage photos and postcards of restaurants in the chain with both the name spelled both Sveden and Sweden House.

Here's a fairly common postcard that was used to advertise the national chain (below).

Vintage postcard

Sveden House opened near Midway Mall in Elyria in the fall of 1972. It was still running ads in the classified section of the newspaper for head cooks and waitresses in late October (below).

October 22, 1972 ad from the Chronicle-Telegram
It did open in time for Thanksgiving 1972. The below ad ran in the Chronicle-Telegram on November 16.
Its first appearance in the Lorain phone book was consequently the 1973-74 edition (below).