Schrafft’s was a chain of high-volume moderately priced New York restaurants connected to the Schrafft’s food and candy business of Boston. It offered large, pleasant dining rooms “in the better areas” which often attracted ladies who were in these areas for shopping. Schrafft’s restaurants had a lot of women lunch customers and it was said this was because they felt safe there, where, until later years, there were no standing bars. Schrafft’s was one of the first restaurants to allow unescorted women on a routine basis. The dining rooms, which had tablecloths at dinner time, and later had separate standing bar areas, were supplemented by fountain service lunch counters, separate rooms in which were displayed for sale Schrafft’s branded candy and ice cream, and various items such as wrapped gift baskets of fruit, candy and stuffed toys.
Schrafft’s began as a candy manufacturer in Boston but over time the company became a well-known restaurant chain as well. In 1898 Frank G. Shattuck, a salesman for the Schrafft company from upstate New York, opened a candy store at Broadway and West 36th Street in Manhattan, New York City. His sister, Jane Shattuck, was largely responsible for the introduction of light lunches into the stores. The first to serve food was the Syracuse store in 1906. By 1909 Jane introduced meals to the second New York City Schrafft’s, at 54 West 23rd Street in the heart of the Ladies’ Mile shopping district. By 1927 there were 25 units, mostly in New York, with the Harlem location at 2786 Broadway between West 107th and 108th Streets in 1933.
Here’s a look at the inside of Schrafft’s in Harlem:
Schrafft’s was known for an air of gentility typical of the upper middle-class home. Cooks, supervisors, and even some executives were women. Menus of the 1920s and 1930s included many salads, more desserts than entrees, and vegetable selections such as creamed cauliflower and fried eggplant.
Rent cuts in The Depression encouraged chain expansion, and by 1937 there were 43 Schrafft’s, primarily in metropolitan New York City, but a few in Boston and Philadelphia. The 1939 WPA Guide to New York City said Schrafft’s had 38 locations in the metropolitan area, serving American home food. At its peak there were about 50 units in greater New York. In the late 1960s the Schrafft’s candy company was sold to Helme Products while Pet, Inc. took over the restaurants. Pet made a renewed effort to renovate Schrafft’s image and attract men.
In 1981 the candy company ceased while the few restaurants remaining were in various hands.
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