For over a century the Crown Candy Kitchen family business founded by Andy Karandzieff’s grandfather in Old North has been a neighborhood icon, consistently drawing loyal customers from the bi-state region and around the world. Along the way, Crown Candy has also generated an enviable share of national and international media notoriety. Karandzieff credits his family business longevity and success to a strong work ethic and sticking with what works. His loyalty to and love of the Old North and surrounding neighborhoods is as steadfast as his work ethic. He’s optimistic that his beloved Old North neighborhood will see growth with the Next NGA West project being built less than a mile from his home and business.
What’s the real secret to Crown Candy's longevity and notoriety?
I think the fact that we have not deviated from the standards my grandfather and father set for our business. Also the fact that we have not changed much (except maybe the amount of bacon we serve!) is a huge factor for our success and long history. Staying here in the same location and giving people a connection to their past is also a big factor. Offering a consistently excellent product is key and it has led to multiple generations walking through our door!
You are outspoken in your praise about the Old North neighborhood. What makes it special as a place to live, as well as a place to build a thriving business?
We love this neighborhood and it has been my family's home for over a century. There is such a sense of community here. It’s about the people. When there is a need, our neighbors rally to help each other in times of loss and celebration. Also the diverse group of people that live here is great. I believe that Old North has huge potential to support new business and attract more people down to this historic and wonderful area.
You've probably seen plenty of notable people patronize Crown Candy Kitchen. Anyone special come to mind as far as celebrities or other colorful characters?
Bill Murray was in years ago and was really nice and fun to meet. He bought 105 malts for his whole crew that were filming down the street at the time. Tony Curtis has dined with us and he was really nice; my mom really loved meeting him. Ina Garten (host of “Barefoot Contessa”) was in and was so sweet and friendly to everyone in the store. Adam Richman tried to do our malt challenge and that made national TV. Another great guy and loved talking to everyone. He came back to do a follow on segment on our BLT sandwich. That was TV worth watching!
What is your best memory of growing up, living and running a business in the Old North neighborhood?
It’s really a collage of the amazing friendships and connections I have made with my customers. And the satisfaction of being here for all of my customers and hearing them say how important Crown Candy has been and still is to them, especially through the rough times we have seen. One of my greatest thrills is to see when the fourth or fifth generation customer comes in to experience and pass on the tradition.
As a fixture in your neighborhood you've seen plenty of change, both good and bad. What are your thoughts about attracting more businesses and residents to consider living and investing in this part of St. Louis?
We say bring it on!! We want our neighborhood to thrive and we can't do it alone. Any new businesses really just need to understand what the neighborhood needs and wants. Being dedicated to the job and being prepared to have some growing pains certainly doesn't hurt either.
You've entertained this question many times before, but what is the primary reason that keeps you here and not expanding to other areas of St. Louis metro area?
Well, first of all, this business here is also my home. It’s a full-time job running a three-headed business of ice cream, candy store and restaurant. I do not think that dividing my time would be a benefit to me or my business and especially my customers. I firmly believe that nobody takes care of your business like you take care of your business. Then there’s also the fact that everything here is paid for! We take great pride on being a destination and the whole idea of moving would just make us another ice cream shop in the St. Louis metro area.
Your family's legacy goes back several generations. What were some of the things that come to mind about your father and grandfather's ties to the neighborhood that remain part of your legacy today?
The fact that I have five generations of customers walking through our doors is incredible and being here for them and seeing their smiling faces and hearing their stories makes all this hard work by my family worth it. Again it is a sense of community. My grandfather would house immigrants back in the day. He would give them a job and shelter until they learned the language and were able to move on. We tend to do that with our hires. Most of the kids we hire are from the neighborhood and we pride ourselves on helping them gain a good work ethic to start their own adventures or to continue to support them as a loyal employee. I knock on wood saying this, but our turnover is extremely low and I believe it is because that we treat our employees like family.
While many businesses make changes to stay viable, Crown Candy Kitchen still operates the way your father and grandfather ran it. Do you think that not making changes is part of the reason for your customers’ loyalty?
Yes! You know…don't fix what isn't broken. We have kept things pretty much the same for all these years because people have an expectation that everything will be just like when they first visited. Whether it was six days, six months, or 60 years ago.
While we're on the subject of change, what's your view on NGA's decision to build its new facility less than a mile away from your home and business? What kind of changes do you think may come for your business, as well as north city neighborhoods as a whole?
I expect to see more construction, whether it's rehab or new build. I hope to see more new business in the area and hopefully an upgrade in all the infrastructure. All of this will lead to more people wanting to work, shop and live in our little corner of the world.
Any chance you might entertain adding a new menu item on behalf of your new NGA customers and neighbors? Maybe a new NGA sundae concoction, or chocolate NGA figure, or, better yet, an NGA sandwich?
Anything’s possible …you never know!
The views presented are those of the participant interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or NGA, or any of their components. No endorsement is expressed or implied.
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