Oklahoma City was once crowed the cafeteria capital of the United States, a place home to such legendary eateries as Lady Classen, Queen Ann, Anna Maude, Adair’s, Dobson’s, O’Mealey’s and Boulevard. Boulevard Cafeteria is now the only one remaining.
The cafeteria craze started with Anna Maude Smith starting up her own cafeteria after operating one at the old downtown YWCA. Her partner was Bob Smith, who later partnered with Ralph Geist, a Norman restaurateur. Geist then partnered with Naomi O’Mealey and opened Classen Cafeteria at NW 23 and Classen. O’Mealey left the partnership and started her own cafeteria at NW 23 and Walker – O’Mealey’s. Geist hired a new cook for his Norman eatery, John Schroer Sr.
Garland Arrington opened the Boulevard Cafeteria in 1948 at 1111 Classen Drive and then sold it in 1956 to Schroer and Pat Denham for $100,000. The Schroer family took over full control of the cafeteria after Denham was killed in an August, 1960 boat explosion.
In 1966 Oklahoma City was home to 23 cafeterias. And it was that year the Schroers launched an extensive renovation and promoted it as the first “restaurant-style” cafeteria with comfortable seating and a more formal design. John Schroer Jr. joined as a partner in the corporation and together the father and son duo enjoyed great success running Boulevard Cafeteria.
In 1973 younger son Robert joined as manager and 10-percent owner and John Schroer Jr. left to start up his own eatery, Queen Ann Cafeteria, at Founders Tower. In 1975 the cafeteria moved across the street from its old location to its current home at 525 NW 11 (the original location is now home to EMSA).
Robert Schroer became controlling partner and general manager at Boulevard in 1977 and then sole owner in 1979 when John Schroer Sr. retired. Younger brother Bill joined the staff in 1978 and worked as manager until opening his own restaurant, Hudson’s in Edmond, in 1984.
Bill Schroer purchased Boulevard upon Robert Schroer’s death in 1989. Bill continued the operation until his death in 1998, at which time his wife Malin Schroer took over the business. Bill and Malin Schroer’s son Harrison now runs the business and he generously allowed Retro Metro OKC to create a digital collection of photos displayed at the cafeteria by his grandparents and their customers over the past half century.
— Steve Lackmeyer
Scanning by the RetroMetro OKC Resources Committee