ST. LOUIS • Bill Medart was a top local amateur golfer. Blossom Breneman of Kirkwood was an actress in Hollywood. Their surprise courthouse marriage in Clayton in 1928 made headlines.
So did their newlywed dust-up, when she alleged in a lawsuit that her wealthy in-laws were meddlesome. The couple patched things up and, in 1930, turned their fashionable charm into “glorifying the American hamburger.”
Medart’s restaurant, at 7036 Clayton Avenue, west of Skinker Boulevard, was an instant hit. Bill ran the grill, Blossom made coconut pies. He left his parents’ company, Medart Manufacturing Co., and played less golf. Blossom, who had been in a few movies, turned down a Hollywood contract.
“Perhaps the opening of a hamburger restaurant is the solution to the problem of golf widows,” she said.
Medart’s had a good business with the after-theater crowd and college kids. It grew with an adjoining restaurant called the Olde Cheshire. But more than burgers were simmering.
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Frustrated by long hours and low pay, Medart’s waitresses went on strike in July 1941. The members of Waitresses Local 249 demanded that pay more than double to $15, from $7, for a six-day week. They also wanted Medart’s to provide their uniforms and hire assistants to bus tables. Bill Medart said the demands would break him.
On March 16, 1942, Medart’s finally settled and gave the waitresses most of what they wanted, including one week’s paid vacation. But it was a long and rocky dispute, played out as customers passed through picket lines. Hostilities included harsh words, fistfights, stink bombs and a real bomb.
Lawyers for Medart’s sought a court order limiting picketing and complained that strikers used the word “rat,” a labor slur for a non-union operator. Kitty Amsler, business agent for the waitresses union, assured the judge they were referring to little rodents, not Bill or Blossom.
Howard McVey, a sympathetic Bartenders Union leader, admitted he slugged Bill Medart in a fair fight. Medart was fined $500 for hitting Maury Rubin, managing editor of the St. Louis Labor Tribune, with a beer bottle.
An occasional stink bomb hit the property. On Nov. 20, 1941, a real bomb damaged the roof of the Olde Cheshire. Ethel Taylor, a waitress and strike leader, said she was ‘sorry to hear about it.”
After the settlement, the strikers went back to work. Six months later, the Medarts bought adjoining parcels to expand parking and their restaurants.
On Jan. 12, 1951, Bill Medart died in a fall from a fifth-floor hotel room in Paris. His death at 46 was ruled a suicide.
Blossom Medart remarried and, in 1960, sold the business, which was reopened as the Cheshire Inn. Closed in 2005, it is under restoration again.