Crady’s Eclectic Cuisine in historic, downtown Conway, South Carolina has closed its doors.
“July 6 was one of the hardest days of my life,” said Barbara Crady Whitley, the owner and mastermind behind the restaurant that has been a Conway icon for nearly 16 years.
“How do you tell twelve trusted employees, who are just like family, that they are now unemployed?” she asked. ”And how do you say goodbye to something that has been a part of your daily routine for almost two decades?”
Barbara, along with her son, Adam, now deceased, started Crady’s in 2001 as a small coffee shop. Together, they watched it grow into a restaurant that has received accolades from food critics nationwide, and the praise of locals who have gathered for family celebrations and delicious, scratch-made meals.
Known for its farm-to-table freshness and desserts that have been featured on the cover of magazines, Crady’s became one of the area’s most popular caterers. From simple finger foods to delicious cakes, hand decorated by Barbara’s husband, Les, Crady’s earned top billing for great food, quality service and a personal approach that put them heads above their competition.
“We have always been a family-owned and family-run restaurant,” Barbara said. While she did the baking, her daughter, Heather, handled the day-to-day operations. Barbara’s husband, Les, a retired professor from Coastal Carolina University, kept the restaurant in prime physical condition—along with decorating cakes and making deliveries.
While Crady’s appeared to be picture perfect—a beautiful restaurant, seasoned employees, loyal patrons, and great food, the behind-the scenes was anything but perfect.
“Like many small businesses we have been strangled by taxes, increased labor costs and the rising costs of products and services–in our case, food costs.” Barbara explained. The harder we tried, the deeper in debt we became. Six months ago, we received a blessing in the form of a young couple, the Conways, who agreed to purchase Crady’s on a lease-buy arrangement. That too, fell through when they saw the insurmountable task of running a small, successful restaurant.
“I am proud to say that although we have faced some tough times, we have held our heads high, we have paid our employees fairly and on time, and we never faltered in the quality of food we have served,” Barbara said.
What comes next for Barbara Crady Whitley, who, for the last sixteen years has been at her restaurant as early as 4:00 a.m. to begin the arduous task of hand rolling dough for her delicious pies, and creating sheer masterpieces from such simple ingredients as butter, sugar, flour and eggs?
“It’s all been a labor of love and I will miss it. Those who know me, know that I have a passion for baking. That passion will never end. I am also a woman of great faith,” Whitley said. “I know that when one door closes, another opens. I am waiting for God to show me the way, and I know he will,” Barbara said.