January 25, 2016
Ingrid Croce opened her namesake restaurant in 1985 as a tribute to her late husband - singer/song writer Jim Croce. In 2014, she moved her eatery to Banker's Hill and renamed it Croce's Park West. After more than three decades serving up tasty dishes and live music in San Diego, Ingrid has closed Croce's.
Her life would make for a riveting movie plot - Ingrid Croce has been a San Diego resident for more than 30 years, but her storied past has taken her from stardom, to tragedy, to a longtime career as an influential local restauranteur and business woman. The founder of San Diego Restaurant Week and owner/operator of Croce's Park West has closed the doors to her restaurant, but her influence will certainly live on in San Diego's culinary world.
In the late 80s, Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar expanded five times, adding Croce’s Jazz Bar, a second restaurant, a rhythm and blues bar, Croce’s Top Hat Bar and Grille, Upstairs at Croce’s, and Croce’s Catering and Event Planners. Ingrid went on to become a board member of the California Restaurant Association, San Diego County Chapter and The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau. In 2004, Ingrid launched San Diego Restaurant Week, which now in its twelfth year draws 200,000 guests to close to 200 restaurants twice a year.
In January 2014, after nearly 30 years in business, the Gaslamp venue closed due to lease issues with her landlord, and Ingrid opened Croce's Park West 18 blocks uptown, in San Diego's Banker's Hill district. After two years operating Croce's at 2760 5th Avenue, Ingrid has closed her restaurant, citing lack of interest in live music due to the deterioration of the music industry as a primary reason.
Ingrid Croce published the following to the restaurant's website and to Facebook announcing the closure of Croce's Park West:
Do you know the story about when Jim Croce and I first moved to San Diego in 1973? We were so surprised when we went to the Gaslamp and saw our new downtown in such disrepair. There were no restaurants or music venues anywhere and we were hungry for both.
So Jim joked that we should open a restaurant and bar and have our friends like James Taylor, Jimmy Buffet, Arlo Guthrie, Bonnie Raitt, The Manhattan Transfer and more, come to play at our bar.
But a week later, Jim’s plane crashed and that dream was gone.
Then after 10 years of litigation, I wanted to recreate the warmth and energy of my time with Jim Croce, and those early days of entertaining together. So I built Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar, right on the corner of Fifth and F, just where Jim and I had talked about it.
It took a long time for the Gaslamp Quarter to come of age. It was an uphill battle for so many years, but I wanted to do it for Jim Croce and his fans. So I poured my heart, soul, effort and lots and lots of money into my endeavor. Until finally, the Gaslamp came alive and we had foot traffic.
When we lost our lease in the Gaslamp Quarter after thirty years, my husband Jimmy Rock and I tried to recreate our dream in Banker’s Hill.
But you know Bob Dylan got it right when he sang “You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.”
And unfortunately, we have found that live music isn’t the draw that we hoped and needed it to be. The piracy and devaluation of music has been such a major blow to us that we can no longer afford to support live music on our own. And it wouldn’t be Croce’s without live music.
In the end, Croce’s Park West was fabulous…the food, the ambience, the hospitality, the live music and our wonderful guests, who have become like friends and family. It was everything we wanted it to be! We feel it was a success.
We hope that the many wonderful memories and friendships that have been cultivated over all the years will endure. And we sincerely thank you all so very much for supporting us and for helping us to honor Jim Croce and the legacy of his music.
Ingrid Croce and Jimmy Rock
Please follow me on my blog at Ingrid Croce and Jim Croce, and on Facebook and Twitter!