CWEA VOICES by the West End Word
The Central West End Association (CWEA) will honor Derek and Lucas Gamlin with the Polk Award, and The Royal Vagabonds with the Renaissance Award, at its 2017 gala on Friday, Dec. 1, 6 p.m., at The McPherson, 4715 McPherson Ave.
Polk Award Winners
Restaurateurs Derek and Lucas Gamlin have long been supporters of the Central West End, placing their faith in the neighborhood by opening three restaurants in succession there. They have also used their substantial business success to give back to the community.
The Gamlins’ dedication to the Central West End has not gone unnoticed. The brothers are being recognized with the Polk Award, an annual honor given by the CWEA to those who have made contributions to the betterment of the neighborhood.
The Gamlins opened their first Central West End restaurant, Sub Zero Vodka Bar, at 308 N. Euclid Ave. more than 13 years ago. Gamlin Whiskey House followed nine years later, at Euclid and Maryland. Now the brothers are celebrating the recent grand opening of 1764 Public House, located at the intersection of Euclid and West Pine.
In 2013, the Gamlins founded “Gamlins Give Back,” which helps fund local charities through Give Back Days. Every quarter, a Give Back Day event is held at a Gamlin restaurant, with 15 percent of total sales donated to a local charity.
“We used to give gift cards when people asked, or little things, but then a focus emerged for bigger events,” said Derek Gamlin. “The charities are as close and as local as possible: Forest Park Forever, Ronald McDonald House, Shriner’s, World Pediatric Fund.”
“Over the years, our philosophy has become, ‘give as much as we can,’” said Lucas Gamlin.
Other charities benefiting from Give Back Day include The Jason Motte Foundation, The Chris Long Foundation, St. Louis Arc and the Gateway Area Chapter of the National MS Society.
With their latest restaurant, 1764 Public House, the Gamlins have created a restaurant that is “an extension of all that is good about St. Louis.”
“The Central West End – and this has been verified by multiple sources – is a friendly place,” said Derek Gamlin. “People are awed at how diverse and how nice people are here. Being a St. Louisan is being nice and inviting. That’s what this restaurant is about.”
Renaissance Award Winners
The Royal Vagabonds are St. Louis’ best kept secret, yet this African-American fraternal organization has made its impact in the community for nearly 90 years.
The Vagabonds’ accomplishments will be recognized with the Renaissance Award presented by the CWEA at its annual gala.
“When (CWEA President) Kelly Waters told me we were winning the award, I was quite taken aback,” said Claude Brown, grand pharaoh of the Royal Vagabonds. “We really never sought out the limelight.”
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson recently recognized the group’s accomplishments as well.
“Any time we’re told that we are the most important organization in this area it means a lot,” Brown said.
The Royal Vagabonds, which has around 90 professional members, has been housed at a three-story house located at 4315 Westminster Place in the Central West End since 1950. Prior to this location, the businessmen met at 64 Vandeventer Place after traveling to members’ homes to convene due to racially-segregated accommodations. Hence the name “Vagabonds.” The founders’ wives were the inspiration for adding “Royal” for a sense of racial pride.
The social group works steadily with the Central West End Association and exemplifies the latter’s mission of “protecting and improving quality of life for residents, enhancing the experience of visitors, and supporting corporations that call the Central West End home.”
“We try to be good neighbors and have someone (from the CWEA) sit in (on our meetings) so we’ll know what’s going on in the community and act accordingly,” said Vice Grand Pharaoh Bob Rogers. “We’ve also been able to maintain our building. It blends very well in this community. It hasn’t been easy, but we were able to accomplish that.”
The organization’s charitable works include hosting annual golf tournaments in the St. Louis area since the 1950s. Through its foundation, created in 2003, the group added benefit concerts at The Sheldon and leadership award luncheons at The Renaissance Hotel.
Additionally, the Royal Vagabonds have built several playgrounds in the city, including a state-of-the-art playground at Zion Child Development Center in Ferguson with the Veiled Prophet Foundation. They’ve given more than $100,000 in scholarships to high school students.