Photographs and memories are all that will remain of Croce's Restaurant and Jazz Bar in San Diego's Gas Lamp Quarter. Ingrid Croce opened the restaurant in 1985 as a tribute to her late husband singer-songwriter Jim Croce. She wanted the world to remember and honor his music, hospitality and kind, generous spirit.
Ingrid always supported her husband’s love of music and used to tour with him from the late 60s to early 70's and recorded an album with Capital Records titled Jim & Ingrid Croce. In 1972, Croce signed to a three-record deal with ABC Records. In 1973, the Croce's relocated from Philadelphia to San Diego. His two albums "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" and "Life and Times" were already released and Croce's biggest single, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", hit No. 1 on the American charts in July 1973.
Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar was opened and managed by Ingrid because it was a project she and Croce jokingly discussed before his death.
Ingrid writes on her website, “When Jim and I moved from Philadelphia to our new home town, we thought that like New York, and other cities, San Diego would have a downtown where we could find restaurants and small clubs. But when we got here, all we found were strip joints, adult bookstores and triple X- rated films. After searching the Gaslamp for a while, we crossed to the corner of Fifth and F, and Jim said to me, “Ing, we’re just gonna have to build our own restaurant and invite our friends like James Taylor, Jimmy Buffet, Bonnie Raitt and Arlo Guthrie to play here."
The next week Jim was killed in a plane crash.
Croce's career was taking off when on Thursday, September 20, 1973, during Croce's Life and Times tour and the day before his ABC single "I Got a Name" was released, Croce, and five others were killed the small plane they were traveling in crashed taking off on a small airport in Louisiana.
For 12 years, Ingrid faced "brutal music business litigation. At the same time the Keating Building on the corner of Fifth and F, became vacant.
"It was the very same corner where Jim and I had stopped 12 years before. I recognized it as an omen and I knew I needed to build a restaurant with live music right here, in his memory," wrote Ingrid on her webpage http://www.croces.com/croces-restaurant/menus/holiday/new-years-eve.html
Ingrid had plans to keep Croce's open another 30 years at the corner of Fifth and F but her current landlord has different plans and didn’t want to renew the restaurants lease.
New Year’s Eve guests will dine and listen to music until all that is left of Croce's at Fifth and F is photographs and memories.
Ingrid who is now married to her husband Jimmy Rock isn't one to pack up and walk away without starting something new. Ingrid and her husband formed a new little company called “Croce’s Neighborhood”.
"What we have accomplished is so special, we wanted to create little islands of shared community throughout our city," wrote Ingrid. "We are opening “Croce’s Park West” in Banker’s Hill… not as a substitute for Croce’s, our Flagship, but as a new island of hospitality and community."
Ingrid wrote they never imagined they would lose Croce’s but they fought for four years to renew the lease with the current property owner and the landlord has decided they want to take the corner of Fifth and F into a new direction.
"We are committed to keeping the spirit of Croce’s alive and thriving here in San Diego. We are about timeless…not about the trend," wrote Ingrid.