By Drew Ailes
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The name "Brandt's" has been part of the Loop streetscape for years, but over the past two decades the space at 6525 Delmar Boulevard has undergone more makeovers than Madonna. "I started out with a natural-food store and wound up with a jazz club," laughs Jay Brandt, who in 1985 took over the storefront previously occupied by his dad's package-liquor store.
Now Brandt is stepping back from the business he shepherded from health-food grocery store to deli to sit-down restaurant, just a couple of years after a major renovation gave birth to the Red Carpet Lounge, a retro-flavored nightspot reusing the name (and recalling the vibe) of his parents' club in the storied Gaslight Square district. Performers from that era, such as Mae Wheeler and Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum, have become regular attractions, and Brandt has clearly enjoyed continuing the family tradition.
However, not long after the Red Carpet Lounge opened, Brandt's wife's employer, May Company, was bought by Federated Department Stores. The good news was that Cherie Brandt was offered a job by Federated; the bad news was that it was in Cincinnati. As the family prepared to move, Jay Brandt began looking for a buyer, hoping to find someone who would continue Brandt's with the same format. Enter Rick Fessler, who runs a chain of Cingular cell-phone stores and a small-business consulting firm, and was formerly married to Brandt's niece.
"I was looking at opening up a restaurant at one time, and was thinking about modeling it on Jay's concept: food, wine, live jazz and outdoor dining," Fessler recalls. "It's just always been a passion of mine."
Informed by Brandt's stockbroker nephew, Adam, that the business he hoped to emulate was for sale, Fessler said he'd buy it "but only if you come in with me." Adam Brandt agreed, and in December papers were signed, putting a third generation of the Brandt family in business on Delmar.
Fessler and Adam Brandt have already expanded the café's beer and wine lists, and in February the kitchen will close for ten days for a complete refitting. "We want to expand the menu a little bit," Fessler says. "We thought it could use a really good steak and a couple of good gourmet hamburgers, and those things required a grill back there."
Jay Brandt retains a minority interest in Brandt's and will continue to book bands, maintain the Web site, and serve as consultant and "host emeritus," making the five-and-a-half-hour drive from Cincinnati to St. Louis about once a month. He says Brandt's will continue to present longtime jazz favorites like Whalum, Wheeler and Jeanne Trevor, but also hopes to entice younger patrons by bringing new musicians into the mix, such as fusion-jazz guitarist Todd Mosby, bassist Tom Kennedy's trio, acid-jazz/remix duo Mo and Dawn, and singer-songwriters Cat Sansone and Jesse Gannon. "If you go to most jazz venues in St. Louis, it's an older crowd," says Jay Brandt. "Brandt's wants to be the jazz room for the younger crowd." Dean C. Minderman
Old Wives' TalesSharon Osbourne and Courtney Love have a lot in common. They are both outspoken, headstrong women who married men that later became monstrously famous musicians. They both had plastic surgery. They are both known for throwing things Love for hurling makeup at Madonna, Osbourne for pelting Iron Maiden with eggs. And now, they've both written books about themselves. But the tomes of the two most (in)famous rock wives since Yoko Ono take us on vastly different but equally sensational trips. Here we roll out the high (and drunk) points of each. Click here to view the chart.