ST. LOUIS — One hundred years after it began, Crown Candy Kitchen is more popular than ever in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the iconic shop celebrates its centennial this year, though the exact date of its opening in 1913 isn't known.
After all this time, Crown Candy remains in the hands of the family that founded it. Andy Karandzieff now heads operation of the eatery that his grandfather, a Greek immigrant, founded.
On a recent day, Karandzieff poured milk chocolate into Easter bunny molds while his mother, Bessie, filled heart-shaped boxes with homemade chocolates. Andy's wife, Sherri, was processing online orders; his brother was crisping bacon for the lunch rush; and their sister-in-law was poring over spreadsheets.
"I'm the luckiest guy to be able to work side-by-side with my family every day," Karandzieff, 48, said.
Crown Candy is known for its chocolate but also for its rich milkshakes and hearty sandwiches. The best-selling menu item is the "Heart-Stopping BLT." The restaurant once sold 315 of the monster sandwiches, which include a dozen or more strips of Oscar Mayer bacon.
The store received national exposure last year on the Travel Channel when host Adam Rich featured the BLT in his "Best Sandwiches in America" show. And in 2009, Rich's "Man v. Food" TV show featured Rich attempting Crown Candy's Malt Challenge — drink five malted milkshakes in 30 minutes. He was a half-shake short.
The attention meant cops and downtown business workers who frequented Crown for lunch were being joined by busloads of tourists.
"We were totally unprepared for the onslaught that brought us," Andy Karandzieff said. "The line out the door. Everyone wanting a malt and a BLT."
Friends Karen Church and Carol Lohaus split a BLT for lunch recently, as they've done many times over the decade or so they've been coming to Crown.
"I love their hot fudge sundaes," Church said. "This place is just such a landmark, with wonderful ambiance. It reminds us of our youth."
Some days, Crown Candy feeds 1,000 people. But Karandzieff said there are no plans to add a second store.
"There's something special about walking in those doors and seeing the same stuff that's been here for 100 years," he said. "You can't just re-create that."