Schrafft's: The Place To Be
I generally don't blog about restaurants but this one caught my eye for a couple of reasons one being nostalgia.
Schrafft’s opened their first store (that's what they were called) in NYC in the early 1900's. Frank Shattuck, opened a Schrafft’s candy store on Madison and 36th Street and in the 1910's, opened a second store. It was in the heart of the Ladies Mile Shopping District on West 23rd St, and served light food consisting of sandwiches and ice cream. The real scene was at lunchtime; the fountain service lunch counters were a popular spot for women and the expanding middle class. A mother/daughter lunch was a tradition at Schrafft’s in many middle class families. Schrafft’s was elegant and affordable back then. Dining out was an instant marker of class. The waitresses wore black dresses with crisp white collars and cuffs, dainty white aprons and hairnets. Schrafft’s was a cross between a tearoom and a soda fountain shop. Their locations next to the 21 club, in the Chrysler Building and at 5th Avenue and 46th Street had interiors covered with murals and leather covered chairs. Schrafft’s ran a tight ship, coffee had to be discarded after 30 minutes and chipped tableware was not tolerated.
"Overheard at Schrafft’s" was an introduction to a humorous anecdote in The New Yorker back in the day. Schrafft’s image was plain, clean American cooking. Matinee days were particularly busy but ran neck to neck with the everyday lunch crowd. The most popular food options were the chopped egg sandwiches cut into thirds with the crusts removed and the chopped chicken salad sandwich, on crustless bread cut into quarters. Chicken a la king was a popular runner up. It was standard tearoom fare. The meal would be followed by an ice cream sundae (the best was their butter scotch sundae with vanilla ice cream) or another delicious desert.
Schrafft’s was pretty radical in its early days: It was one of the first restaurants to allow unescorted women on a regular basis. In an era when women without male escorts were not welcome in restaurants, Schrafft’s was a safe, affordable place for women to socialize on their own. Schrafft’s hired many women, not only as waitresses but also as cooks and managers and offered maternity leave. By the late 1930's, there were 30 or more Schrafft’s primarily in New York City. Schrafft’s continued to expand in the post-war era through the 1960's and then like many institutions of that time, faded by the 1970's. NPR's Lyn Neary beautifully summed it up when she said Schrafft’s, "always felt like the epicenter of the comfort zone".
Coco & Cyd advocate for women’s empowerment and love learning about any small or large feat that women have accomplished throughout history. Schrafft’s is a significant (although it may not seem so now) example of women’s strength to overcome and take charge. We hope to follow in the same path by providing clothing that will empower you during your day to go out and be fearless; to make a difference as Schrafft’s did during its time.
Big thanks (and credit for this blog) to Paul Friedman's new book Ten Restaurants That Changed America and to Mimi Sheraton's book, Eating My Words.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Stop by Thursday for our next blog post
Quote to take with you for the week:
"A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts."