Joy Grdnic opened the restaurant The Fountain On Locust with three goals in mind — create a fun atmosphere, offer great prices and make quality food. Grdnic always was told a restaurant could not have all three things, but she was never one for being told what she could and could not do. Grdnic never intended to open her own restaurant, but sometimes life tends to turn out the opposite of what one imagines. So when she discovered aged ice cream from a family dairy in Wisconsin, she thought someone should bring it to St. Louis, but she never thought it would be her.
Aged ice cream is different than regular ice cream because it is made slower, giving it more flavor without adding more fat.
“The ice cream was just so good, and I thought, well who’s going to bring it to St. Louis?” Grdnic says. “So I did it. You know if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”
Grdnic says she remembers being young and going to restaurants and thinking she was glad she did not work in the food industry. Now, she says The Fountain On Locust has become her life. She says she often tries out new restaurants, yet always comes back to The Fountain On Locust for a full meal because she knows it is a trusted place. One of the things she says she is most proud of is the diverse customer base the restaurant receives. There are people dining from all ages and for every occasion.
“The key to being successful is to give them more than they pay for, both in quality and experience,” Grdnic says. “This restaurant is a place people can count on to take people from out of town and not be sorry.”
Consequently, the St. Louis Post Dispatch voted The Fountain On Locust as the best restaurant to impress out-of-towners. One of the most famous traits of the restaurant are the hand-painted murals. Grdnic says the process took two years because Grdnic painted by herself two days a week until it was finished.
Grdnic said when the restaurant opened, the only items on the menu were things she would serve at dinner parties with her family and friends. From there, Grdnic, the staff and even the public helped in the creation of the extensive menu available today. Customers began voicing their opinion when a well-respected coach in the community brought in his mom’s famous chili recipe and shared it with Grdnic. Now, the Fountain on Locust often does a customer chili of the week where customers share their favorite recipe.
The staff goes through many rounds of testing until they are ready to serve their products to the public. Grdnic says they searched for the perfect Cuban sandwich by visiting as many restaurants as they could that served Cuban sandwiches and compiling a list of their favorite and least favorite things. From there, they returned to the kitchen until the recipe was perfected. Then it became the search for the perfect pot pie, and the cycle continued.
Aside from owning her own business, she is also a comedian. She says her whole life she was tortured over which career to pick, until she realized she was capable of doing both.
“Comedy is a head thing — I get to exercise my brain,.” Grdnic says. “The restaurant is more physical. So it is nice because when I get tired of doing something over and over, I have the other thing to take a break.”
Currently, she is working on a craft beer distillery that is five years in the making. She also realized there was a lack of space at The Fountain On Locust for special events, so she took it upon herself to also open an event center, located on Locust Street near the restaurant. In addition, she also renovates houses in the St. Louis area.
Grdnic says there are times where she is only working on one thing or the complete opposite where she will have three to four projects simultaneously.
“This is the way my life has always been,” Grdnic says. “I’m always overextending myself. But I could not imagine it any other way.”