By Tracy Clemons
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A St. Louis institution is hitting the century mark. Crown Candy Kitchen is celebrating 100 years, but it's not all about ice cream, malts and BLTs.
The neighborhood that it calls home says it's also the heart of the community.
Three letters go hand in hand with Crown Candy.
"The BLT, yeah," says long-time customer Sharon Curran.
"I got the BLT," says first-time customer Jim Ward. "The heart-stopping loaded BLT. It was so big like I couldn't eat it. It was falling apart in my hands."
"I don't think we're making too much money on it because we got about 20 pieces of bacon or more," jokes co-owner Tom Karandzieff. His grandfather started Crown Candy.
He tells us they fry about 3,000 pounds of bacon a week. That's a far cry from the early days.
"With my father back in the day, if we had 10 customers at lunch time it was a big crowd. He could have gave up and quit and said I'm not going to do this anymore, but he stuck with it and the neighborhood started getting better and better."
They've only closed for an extended period once. That was after a fire on Christmas Day 1983. They rebuilt and reopened in two months.
The famous BLT and their malts have been featured on the Travel Channel. Tom's mother, Bessie, says that's helped business. Another boost has been the revitalization of the 14th Street corridor and the areas nearby.
"I think people are starting to move down here. They're building new houses and that's picking up. And then we're getting a lot of people from downtown who live on Washington Avenue," she says.
The man behind the revitalization says it works both ways.
"Their very presence means people have a chance to see a neighborhood that has come back to life," Sean Thomas says. He is the Executive Director of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group.
"It's great for the businesses around here because the foot traffic from Crown Candy helps bring ni additional customers to those new businesses," Thomas says.
Karandzieff says the start to the second hundred years is looking good.
"We're fourth generation. And we have some grandkids, so maybe we'll be fifth generation. So we're going to be here maybe another 100 years. I'm not going to be here, but we're going to try to make it," he said.
The Karandzieffs say they don't know the exact date the restaurant opened in 1913, so they're celebrating the anniversary all year long and hope to have a big celebration sometime this summer.