The Fountain on Locust has been known for many things over the years: fine ice creams (topped with homemade hot fudge, freshly made whipped cream, real fruits), delectable soups and status as the most photographed restaurant in St. Louis.
Among all of that, though, another unexpected aspect of the vintage ice cream parlor is now stealing the show: the restroom.
Thanks to an outpouring of support from St. Louisans, The Fountain recently took home the top prize in the 9th annual America's Best Restroom contest presented by Cincinnati-based business service provider Cintas.
"So many St. Louisans went to bat for us," says owner Joy Grdnic Christensen. "There was something about this goofy little contest that really touched a cord with people."
Tens of thousands of votes were cast at the program's website, and as locals voted, they popped by The Fountain to let the staff know.
"We heard from people of all walks of life," Grdnic Christensen says. "The delivery guy would say, ‘Hey, how's the contest going?' We didn't even know he knew about it."
To hear Grdnic Christensen describe the bathroom, you wouldn't think much of it: "It's a low-budget, recycled-art kind of bathroom," she says.
Judges and voters, however, saw different, finding beauty in the hand-painted murals, ornate fixtures and designer mirrors. The cleanliness scored big points, too.
"This contest is fun, but it also conveys a critical message that restroom hygiene matters, for good health and good business," says Rich Bing, Cintas senior marketing manager.
Grdnic Christensen says she appreciates all the support and is pleased with any attention on the restaurant.
"We are absolutely thrilled and honored to have been chosen by the public as having the Best Restrooms in America," she says. "We put a lot of thought and effort into the design and construction, and we are certain that many of our customers come back because they know our bathrooms are not just unique but also clean. Earning this national recognition means a lot to our entire staff."
The Fountain received a plaque of recognition from Cintas during a special presentation today in St. Louis and secured its place in the America's Best Restroom Hall of Fame.
The top award winners:
First Place: The Fountain on Locust, St. Louis
Known as the most photographed restaurant in St. Louis, the restroom in this vintage ice cream parlor features hand-painted murals, ornate fixtures and designer mirrors.
Second Place: Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City
Italian Carerra Marble, bronze and crystal chandeliers, floor-to-ceiling commodes, beautifully inlaid African Anegre Wood and hand- painted walls
Third: Bryant Park, New York City
Beaux Arts design, full-time attendant, fresh cut flowers, scented oils and electronic seat covers
Fourth: Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Egyptian design, fireplaces, gold columns and custom wainscoting
Fifth: The Muse Hotel, New York City
Individualized restrooms, each themed for a different Muse