The Story of Tremain's Restaurants

From 1936 until 1993 the Tremain family owned and operated seven restaurants in Jefferson City, Missouri. This page will guide you through those years, looking at each establishment through the eyes of those that were there.

Gem Coffee Shop

The Story Begins: 1936 - 1947

    On September 9, 1936 Clarence Tremain was working at the lunch counter at the Stone & Ward's Pool Hall at 236 E. High St., Jefferson City. At the time, Mr. Ward also operated the restaurant in the Gem Theater at 220 Monroe St.. The Theater had a sign out front that read: "Your Family Theater 10¢".

    Mr. Ward told Clarence that he would like to get rid of the Gem Coffee Shop. Clarence had $50.00 in the bank, so he withdrew the $50.00 from the bank, put it in the register for change, and that was the beginning of Tremain's Restaurants.

    Clarence called his brother Ed, who was working in a restaurant in St. Louis and asked him to come to Jefferson City and be his partner. The Coffee Shop only had nine stools along the counter. They were open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

Gem Coffee Shop 220 Monroe St. 1936-1947

     The Coffee Shop was a small hole in the wall measuring approximately 30 ft. x 15 ft. with only nine stools along the counter. There was no air conditioning, only a ceiling fan. The dishes had to be washed and dried by hand as there was no electric dish washer.

     The lunch menu consisted of Beef Stew, Chili, Potato Salad, Sandwiches, and pies. They had bottled soda, bottled 3.2% beer, milk shakes and malts. They also served breakfast.

     The Coffee Shop was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over in the corner was a pinball machine and on the wall was a cigarette machine, for 1¢ (one cent) you could get one cigarette! At the time a pack of cigarettes was only 10¢ or 12¢.

     In 1941 the O.P.A. had every restaurant post ceiling prices. Clarence Tremain looked around and could not find a place on the wall to post the ceiling prices, so he put them on the ceiling. The local News Tribune reporter saw this unusual stunt and wrote a story about Clarence actually posting the ceiling prices on the ceiling. The national wire service picked up the story and it appeared in Time Magazine and others.

Central Hotel

1939 - 1941

    Clarence and Alma Tremain had 4 children; one daughter, Marlene, and three sons, Elmer, Eugene and Richard. All three sons went to work for their dad when they were 12 years old. Elmer in 1937, Eugene in 1939, and Richard in 1941.

    In 1939 Clarence and Ed took over the operation of the restaurant located in the Central Hotel at 100 West High St.. Clarence continued to operate the Gem Coffee Shop while his brother Ed ran the Central Hotel Restaurant.

Central Hotel Restaurant 100 West High St. 1939-1941

     The Central Hotel . . .

Tremain Bros' Lunchroom (Jefferson St.)

1941 - 1952

    In 1941 Clarence and Ed purchased a restaurant at 620 Jefferson St. and gave up the Central Hotel Restaurant. Ed moved to the Jefferson St. location and Clarence continued to operate the Gem Coffee Shop. They named the new restaurant Tremain's Brothers Lunchroom.

    Elmer went into the navy on August 24, 1943, and Eugene and Richard took turns working one week at the Gem Coffee Shop and one week at the Tremain Bros. Lunchroom.

Central Hotel Restaurant 100 West High St. 1939-1941

     The Central Hotel . . .

Tremain Bros' Lunchroom McCarty St.)

1945 - 1974

    On March 23, 1945 Elmer returned home from the navy and Clarence and Ed purchased a restaurant at 1145 East McCarty St.. They named it Tremain Brothers Lunchroom too and had Elmer manage it.

    In 1946 they hired a cook and a baker and started doing most of the cooking and baking for all three restaurants (Gem Coffee Shop and the two Tremain Bros. Lunchrooms) at their 620 Jefferson St. location. They prepared chili, beef stew, soup, potato salad, pies, donuts, rolls, bread, buns, cookies and sliced ham and cheese. They also cut their own meat and ground and pattied hamburgers at this location. They purchased a panel truck to deliver the food to the other two restaurants.

Tremain Bros. Lunchroom 1145 E. McCarty St. 1945-1974

     The Tremain Bros. Lunchroom. . .

Tremain's Drive In

1947 - 1967

    In 1947 they lost the lease at the Gem Coffee Shop and purchased a 4-room house at 813 Dunklin Blvd.; at that time Business Highway 50 was named Dunklin Blvd. (today it is Missouri Blvd.). They remodeled the house and opened Tremain Bros. Drive In. It was the first restaurant in Jefferson City to have curb service.

    Richard enlisted in the Air Force on August 20, 1950, Elmer moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1952 and Eugene got married and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1953 leaving Clarence and Ed to run the restaurants in Jefferson City.

    However, Clarence and Ed dissolved partnership. Clarence kept the Drive In while Ed took the Lunchroom on McCarty. They closed the Jefferson St. Lunchroom.

    Upon Richard's return from the Air Force in 1954 he returned to work for his dad, Clarence, at Tremain's Drive In.

Tremain Bros. Drive In 813 Dunklin Blvd. 1947-1967

     The Tremain Bros. Drive In. . .

Tremain's Medical Arts Coffee Shop

1955 - 1967

    In 1955 Clarence and Richard opened a restaurant in the Medical Arts Building at 515 E. High St.. The restaurant was named Tremain's Medical Arts Coffee Shop. Clarence continued to operate the Drive In and Richard operated the Medical Arts Coffee Shop.

    In 1963, while on vacation, Clarence died at the airport in Denver Colorado. He was only 59 years old.

    With his brothers having moved and his father gone, this left Richard to run both locations by himself.

Medical Arts Coffee Shop 515 E. High St. 1955-1967

     Tremain's Medical Arts Coffee Shop. . .

Tremain's Airport Café

1966 - 1993

With his brothers having moved and his father's death in 1963, Richard was left to run both the Medical Arts Coffee Shop and the Drive in himself. But in 1966 he opened yet another restaurant at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport.

Tremain's Airport Cafe opened on May 18, 1966. One year later to the day, Richard and Ruby had a son, Scott Allen Tremain. The same year Richard gave up the lease at the Medical Arts Coffee Shop, closed the Drive In and sold the building. This left Jefferson City with two Tremain's restaurants: the one at the airport and Ed Tremain's restaurant at 1145 E. McCarty.

In 1974 Ed Tremain suffered heart problems and was forced to close his restaurant at 1145 E. McCarty.

Richard and his wife Ruby operated the Airport Cafe until 1993. Ruby died in May 1993, then two months later the flood of 1993 put 10 feet of water in the cafe. After the water finally receded, Richard decided to retire. That was the last of the Tremain's Restaurants.

Clarence and Ed started in September 1936 with just $50. On June 30, 1993 Richard closed the doors for business the final time on the last Tremain's Restaurant.

Tremain's Airport Cafe Jefferson City Memorial Airport 1966-1993
     Richard opened the Cafe at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport on May 18, 1966. The restaurant opened at 5am and closed at 8pm. There were nine stools along the counter and 14 tables, plus one large round table.

     One year later, to the day, Richard and Ruby had a son, Scott. Soon after, Ruby started working at the Airport Cafe.

     The breakfast menu included ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, pancakes and omelets. The lunch menu included burgers, steaks, seafood, Tremain's Famous Chili, a daily soup, pork tenderloin, sandwiches and a daily plate lunch special.

     Like all Tremain's restaurants, except for the Central Hotel location, the grill and steam table were out front where people could see you cook. The main stove/oven was in the back room (kitchen).

     Around 1975 the hours of operation were changed to 5am - 4pm. That made it possible to have banquets in the evenings. We routinely had banquets of up to 60 people.

     In the 27 years at the Airport, there were four floods:

Date of Crest Amount of Water in Café
April 22, 1973  2' 7" 
October 5, 1986  4' 3" 
May 17, 1990  11" 
July 10, 1993  10' 8" 


    Being located at the airport brought numerous celebrities through our doors. Before the Columbia Regional Airport opened, anyone coming into Central Missouri flew into Jefferson City. From politicians to actors, we always tried to get them to sign our menus on their way through.

     Looking back, the biggest day we had was probably the day that we put 97 dinners each on three aircraft.

     Another good day was the time when we received a call on Monday from an airlines in Dallas. They were bringing the Oklahoma football team up to play Missouri on Friday and return to Oklahoma after the game on Saturday. They were going to fly into the Jefferson City Memorial Airport and wanted us to put food on the plane for the team and coaches. They wanted 60 dinners consisting of ½ fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, bread, an orange and a quart of milk each. I quoted them a price and spent all week ordering food and planning for the meal. On Thursday they called and said they were canceling the meal because they were going to put the food on the plane in Dallas. I asked them "What am I going to do with all this food?", and they said to just send them a bill for it. I sent a bill for the food cost plus 10% for inconvenience. In a few days I received a check for the full amount and a letter apologizing for the inconvenience!