Croby’s Urban Viddles is closing.
The family-owned and -operated restaurant in the Mill Creek area south of Charlottesville has been serving Southern comfort food since September 2016. Four years ago, it was named among Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat.” But it has “run its course,” according to co-owner Rob Campbell.
Campbell owns the business with his sister Shannon Campbell and cousin Mike Marcinek. Shannon Campbell and Marcinek will be leaving Croby’s to join a friend’s catering company. Rob Campbell will be focusing on his full-time work as general manager at Castle Hill Cider in Keswick.
The trio said the restaurant will close its doors for good Jan. 14.
“It was time,” Rob Campbell told The Daily Progress. “We accomplished everything we set out to accomplish. It’s time to move on to a different project.”
Rob Campbell said the original intent of the restaurant was to recreate the environment and food that brought him and his siblings and cousins together around the dinner table as children.
“Our basic group goal was to welcome people back to the table again,” said Rob Campbell. “People are getting too busy with phones and technology and are lacking in human connection.”
The menu they drafted was all traditional comfort food including Southern stables such as fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese as well as classic Virginian victuals such as Brunswick stew. The restaurant had no televisions, and the walls were painted black to invite families to scribble away in chalk.
“We’ve watched families grow up over the past eight years,” said Rob Campbell. “It’s never easy to say goodbye to something to put your passion and love into, but it was kind of our time. We’ll be sad to miss that connection and fraternity that we built.”
Croby’s fans will miss the atmosphere and homestyle recipes, based on the comments in response to the restaurant’s Facebook post announcing its closure. Patrons even requested a cookbook full of Croby’s favorites.
“We found your little gem of a restaurant after going apple picking at Carter’s Mountain,” said Michelle Froustet on Facebook. “You became our must go-to place and the food, as well as service never disappointed! We will certainly miss the best little place for country cooking in Charlottesville.”
There’s no question Croby’s was a fan favorite. In January of 2020, Croby’s was named to crowd-sourced business review website Yelp’s top 100 places to eat in the United States. Three months later, the world came to a standstill. As with restaurants worldwide, the pandemic decelerated any upward momentum Croby’s had, as dine-in restaurants became verboten. Croby’s mission to maintain reasonable prices also became a challenge as the snarled supply chain drove up the cost of even basic ingredients.
Susan Campbell described the closure as “so emotional and bittersweet” in an email to The Daily Progress. She said she and her family have been overwhelmed by the community’s gratitude for Croby’s. The relatives working at the restaurant include more than her brother and cousin; both of their respective mothers are also at work waiting tables. The restaurant itself is named in honor of the lifelong nickname of the Campbells’ father, Denny “Croby” Campbell.
Denny Campbell, for the record, hates the nickname. Denny Campbell was born and raised in Carlisle, Kentucky, where the town’s troublemaker was named Croby. So whenever young Denny Campbell made a mistake, his uncle would poke fun with remarks like “Way to go, Croby,” according to family. Denny Campbell must have misbehaved just enough, because the nickname stuck.
“My dad hates the nickname and wasn’t thrilled in the beginning,” said Shannon Campbell. But when he learned his granddaughter came up with the idea of naming the family restaurant after him? “He then thought it was great.”
Aside from their mothers, Croby’s has four full-time and two part-time employees. The owners are working to get them connected with other local catering companies and restaurants, said Rob Campbell.
Though running a business with family can be described as both “a blessing and a curse,” Rob Campbell said he was thankful to work with the people he could always count on despite disagreements.
“It was amazing to go on a journey with them,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”
The restaurant at 32 Mill Creek Drive will close its doors by Jan. 14, the family said.
But the real estate in the South Side Shopping Center next to a Food Lion grocery store and across the parking lot from a Goodwill Store and Donation Center may not remain vacant long. Rob Campbell confirmed that leasing negotiations are currently ongoing with a potential renter, though nothing has been finalized yet.