Garavaglias’ of the South Side

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Intersection of Lafayette & Nebraska Avenues
South St. Louis City, MO
The building above, with its distinctive corner turret and vintage signage, is always a welcome sight. I mentally refer to it as the Garavaglia Quality Foods Building. Considering all the activity going on in the immediate area, maybe it’s just a matter of moments until this building comes back to life?

Near the intersection of Loughborough Avenue & Morganford Road
South St. Louis City, MO
I pass this tavern on most every work day. It’s such an essential part of the fabric of this part of town that it’s easy to overlook it. And only a few weeks ago did I finally SEE its signage: Garavaglia’s Hill Top Inn. As in the same Garavaglia’s Quality Foods Market? That’s not a real common last name, and how did I overlook this possible connection for so long?

The Quality Foods building was built in 1895. City directories list Pundt Brothers Grocery in the space from 1912 to 1946. From 1947 till the very early 1950s, it was the grocery store of Eugene Wessbecher. Around 1952, Charles J. Garavaglia came into the picture, with a name change to Quality Foods in 1963. Records show the corner market stayed in business until 1989, so is that when the building was shuttered?

The building is still owned by Garavaglia Quality Foods, LLC, and oddest of all, they are listed in numerous on-line St. Louis catering lists. Meaning, some unknowing South Side bride will find this place listed as a viable provider of mostacholi, call the number and get the “no longer in service” message. How does a place that closed in 1989 still have such deep internet saturation?

As for the Hill Top Inn, the building first appeared in 1924, and by 1933 it was billed as Gockel Groceries. The service station seen to the left in the above photo was also there, belonging to George Schwartz, who just so happened to live next door to Goeckel Grocery, at 6904 Morganford (it is now the vacant spot between the tavern and the other house seen in the 2nd photo, above).

In 1942, Joseph J. Garavaglia owned the building, and turned it into a liquor store. In 1947, Julia Garavaglia took it over, and by 1968 she changed the name to what we still call it to this day. At this time she also moved into the now-absent house next door (presumably after Mr. Schwartz moved out, but ya never know).

While doing all this research, I ran across a Garavaglia Market that operated in Dogtown from 1930 – 1950, but then realized that all of these joints never had any owner names in common. Wondering just how common a surname it is, the White Pages reveals a full half-column of Garavaglias, so it’s not a rare name, obviously. It’s merely that a heaping handful of people with this name have been/are connected with food and liquor concerns in South St. Louis, and they have given us some delightful signage and good times. I salute all the Garavaglias!

16 thoughts on “Garavaglias’ of the South Side

  1. My mother lived on 25th block of Mullanphy st.
    There was a man who worked in the corner market near Cass and Mullanphy st as a bagger or butcher. He was black – Puerto rican- maybe. This was 1963. I am looking desperately for him or his family. I think his name is Jim.-Big Jim /Honest Jim maybe.
    Thanks for any help! Vicki
    618 303 3024

  2. I salute the Garavaglias in st. louis.
    Is true, Garavaglia is not a common last name, not even in Italy. Our family come from Little towns around Milano (Messero, Magenta, etc)
    Around 1920’s they emigrate to america, they had no clue how big was America, and many families found themselves separate coming here to USA and the rest going to Argentina 8000 miles away.
    I’m an Argentinian Garavaglia now living in New york city and hoping some day to go visit those town around Milano.
    Carlos Garavaglia

  3. In the early 1980s, I grew up right around the corner from the Garavaglia Quality Foods store and every Saturday morning after getting a $1 allowance from my dad, my brother, sister and friend would walk there to buy candy. We called the older woman at the counter Mrs. Garavaglia and she knew all of us by name. Nice memory.

  4. Also there used to be an electrical repair shop across the street as well. I was confirmed from St. Lucas Lutheran Church next door. As kids we used to sneek out of confirmation class to buy candy from a store located between the tavern and the church. btw: My girlfriend’s name was Sharon Johnson – not Shannon Green.

  5. I spent most of my youth hanging out around Loughborough/Morganford. In the 60s there was a Ben Franklin’s across the street. My first real girlfriend’s (Shannon Green) mother worked at the tavern.
    Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

  6. The one on Nebraska was the market when I lived in the area as a kid. Later when I worked on a 7up truck in the early 70’s we delived there and it was some sort of fish market and no longer a grocery store.

    I later delivered for the ham co I worked for and still later for a wholesaler to the resuraunt on Morganford. It’s a nice place with good food. It’s frequented by Police officers and detectives now days.

  7. Hilltop was bought by the Garavaglia family in 1939 and was immediately turned into a bar/restaurant. After Joseph died Julia took over until the 1960’s when her daughter Rosalie took over and has been running it ever since. During prohibition it was a grocery store but Joe’s uncle bought it in ’37 and turned it into a bar then. It is very interesting history! When Joe owned it there was nothing across the street except for farmers!! I have worked there for a long time now and I love the fact that I can be apart of a little piece of St. Louis history!!

  8. Pingback: The Garavaglia Building - St. Louis - Missouri (MO) - City-Data Forum

  9. my name is joseph anthony garavaglia , email is someone contact me please because i am interested in knowing more of my family, in 1970 only 300 households in america had my last name, my grandfather was joseph emil garavaglia. thank you

  10. The Lafayette Bldg always had a very intimidating beware sign posted, something to the effect “you may break in but will not get out!” Ouch. I agree, however, a real eye catcher worth re using.

  11. I absolutely love your blog and will be taking a day long outing in the spring with my laptop and your site to visit all these places that I have “somehow” missed livin out West!! 🙂 (kirkwood!)

  12. I too salute Garavaglias everywhere.

    The wonderful Melinda Stewart has been working on a National Register nomination for the Quality Foods building, I think with a tax credit project in mind for the future.

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