Are you planning any new flavors or concoctions for this summer?
One of my grandsons works for us, and he came up with an idea to celebrate Route 66 since we are on Route 66. It's a rootbeer concrete malt.
I've been trying to come up with something more affordable for families, and when you have real little children, they usually get the smallest sundaes, so we introduced a smaller concrete. I was having lunch with some of my classmates from college and I said, "I just can't think what to call it ... we already have a mini." My friend said, "Just call it a micro!" So we're calling it a "micro," and then by the flavor, like "micro-strawberry." The very first day they introduced it, somebody ordered, "One micro-chip," and everybody broke out laughing.
Are there any concoctions that you helped invent?
The concrete, of course. It's not like we invented [it], but I feel like Ted Drewes has popularized it. At Ted Drewes we can make those concretes in no time flat. I think the biggest single thing is that we just got good at it, and anybody who works at our place has to get good at it. Somehow or other, I would say we popularized the thick shake more than any other place in our city. When I made my first concrete, it was for a boy in our neighborhood, and he always wanted a thick shake. He always wanted it thicker and thicker, so I just used custard and chocolate syrup, and then I turned it upside down and he went crazy. He's in the Ted Drewes hall of fame! The fact that we popularized that is our number one accomplishment as a store.
Ted Drewes offers free treats for wedding parties that visit in their formal attire. What inspired this tradition?
On Saturdays once in a while we'd get wedding parties coming in, and we got one couple, their first date was at Ted Drewes, so we treated them. And then we got so many of them coming back, saying, "We had our first date here." By nature, first dates should be cheapies. Why would you take a first date to the Fox? When I was in college [at Washington University], first dates were at the Quad Shop for a Coke. Today's college kids are doing the same thing, I'm sure. And so, we started treating these [wedding] groups, just for the heck of it, and we had a lot of good will, so that's why we still to do it.
Have any celebrities been spotted in line at your stands?
At Chippewa, we have hanging in the window on the east side of the store — at the big picture window — a bunch of hats, and they're all hats that we've had people sign. The list is 30 people or so ... Bob Costas, he's been a regular for years. Katie Couric has come in a few times. John McCain came in when he was running for president. The Jonas Brothers like to go to the Grand Avenue store.
I have a feeling about service, and it's that, the plain old average slob should get just as good a treatment as the rich and famous, and my father felt that way. I used to notice that he would be so darned friendly to people coming in driving old jalopies, and he would say, "Well, they have money because they're not blowing it on fancy cars." My wife and I treat people the same way today.
St. Louis Sprout and About is dedicated to helping St. Louis families enjoy the area and all it has to offer. Growing up in St. Louis, what were some of your favorite activities or spots to visit?
I grew up in the Depression times, so we didn't even have organized sports. In the summer we used to have a game called bottle caps. You take a broomstick and use it as a bat, and you'd throw a bottle cap and the person would try to hit it. There was no expense whatsoever. We'd go to the tavern once or twice a summer and they'd give us all the bottle caps we'd need.
My dad managed a skating rink and swimming pool. If I wanted to see my dad, the only way to see him was to go swimming or skating. Which, by the way, wasn't bad; I became a pretty good swimmer and a pretty good skater. On the way to and from the rink, I'd get about 15 minutes with him. That's how I got my quality time. But it was good time, and it was serious time. He was usually good for about one lecture a day.
In general, we, as young people, just made our own fun. We didn't look to our parents at all for fun. About once a year a neighbor boy and I ... would have a magic show. All the kids in the neighborhood would come, and we'd charge them a penny. That was a big deal. That's what people did in those days, made their own fun. It wasn't that much fun, if you want to know the truth!
Maybe two or three times a summer, I would go with one or two of my sisters to the Muny Opera, and we'd sit in the free seats. We never spent any money except for the streetcar fare. The only movies I ever got to see were at the studio down in Pine Lawn; they were double features. Any time a Boston Blackie movie was on, I had to see it. They also used to have serials at the movies in the afternoon, so you'd try to go to the movies every week to see the next installment. Some of the movies were "Flash Gordon" and Buck Rogers, and they were a sight into the future. These ideas were so far-fetched, but they actually came into fruition later on.
This boy who was three doors down, he was a teenager, and he had a Model A coupe. It was open air, like a convertible, and he asked if we wanted to go to the airport. So we got into the car, and I remember he was such a big shot, he got 25 cents worth of gasoline, and we went out to the airport. I remember that was so thrilling to ride in that open air, Model A coupe. Those are the things you remember 80 years later.
You could go to baseball, Cards or Browns. For 50 cents you'd get a knothole game pass for the season. I was able to see maybe 30 or 40 games in the summer, and I'd always take the bus or the streetcar, and that interest stayed with me till today. Still like to go to the games. The knothole seats: Boys were on the left field line, and the girls were on the right field line, so you couldn't mix the sexes. Of course, I was 12, so I didn't want to sit by the girls anyway. In St. Louis, that was just a tremendous deal, and because we lived in Pine Lawn, I could take the Natural Bridge bus down to the ball game. The big expense was to buy a scorecard. I just loved baseball.
Pictured: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is a family affair. Ted Drewes Jr. (right) with son-in-law Travis Dillon (left), vice president of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
Ted Drewes is located at 6726 Chippewa, St. Louis, Mo., 63109, and 4224 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, Mo., 63111. For hours and a complete menu, visit teddrewes.com, or call 314-481-2652 for the Chippewa location or 314-352-7376 for the South Grand location. Drewes also pointed out to this St. Charles County-based reporter that they are always happy to pack to-go items in dry ice for those with a long drive.
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