Iconic Crockett Restaurant For Sale, Future Uncertain

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – For many, the ritual of visiting Rosemary’s Hilltop Kitchen is just a part of life – from the long hours to the classic breakfasts and day-long buffet – one can get fed, get caught up on gossip and spend time with people who after a short while know you and know your order and how you like your eggs. 

The Hilltop is one of the icons of Crockett and Houston County since 1988, becoming a gathering place for the old guys in the morning to sip coffee and talk about things “on the farm,” to regulars who have a standing reservation, the home-cooked comfort food has nourished several generations of locals and newcomers alike. 

That may all end soon, as owners Darrell Matthews and wife Ashley Gloede-Matthews have put the property and the business up for sale. The two took over from Darrell’s mother Rosemary, who had run the restaurant for about 14 years, right about the time of the pandemic. They survived that, but with falling sales and rising prices, the two couldn’t see a way forward to keep the business running. 

With six children to look after as well, the two met on the oilfields which may be where they return if they are able to find a buyer. They had so many plans for the restaurant which sits on a large property on North 4th Street in Crockett. The plans kept getting put off with most of the profits going to pay ever-rising food costs, taxes and keeping the employees paid. 

“It was just the inflation and everything going up in price,” Gloede-Matthews said. “I mean, the cost for a truck of food went from $900 a truck to $5,000 a truck. We know a lot of our customers are on fixed incomes and we can’t raise the prices that much. We’re like one big family and it’s a great community with great people, but everybody’s hurting right now.”

Hilltop Co-Owner Ashley Gloede-Matthews (left) poses with long time server Stevie Pilkington as the future of the popular Crockett cafe is to soon be determined.

The building itself is much bigger on the inside than it looks, with 12,000 total square feet. The dining area most people are familiar with is only one part of the complex and is actually on the second floor, with an entire ground floor below that. Gloede-Matthews is disappointed the two have to sell, but they are at the end of their rope, financially. 

“It’s really heartbreaking and you kind of feel like a failure. This is our passion and we love doing this. We love the people! But at the same time, we can’t turn a profit right now. At one point, eggs were $30 for 60 eggs,” Gloede-Matthews lamented. “It’s ready for someone to take over and that’s what we really want – for someone to keep it open and keep our staff. They’re on time, they they show up, we don’t have to worry about it. Hopefully, they will keep it running.”

Stevie Pilkington has worked for about five years at the Hilltop and hope she can keep her job. Her customers are like family, knowing her and she knowing them. The good and bad days and of course their orders and what they like and don’t like. Asked how she felt about possibly losing her job, Pilkington was at a momentary loss of words. 

“How can I put that?” Pilkington thought out loud. “It’s hard to think about. We have such  good customers we know by name. We already have their drinks out most of the time and will already have their order written down by the time they sit down.”

The prices of food, taxes and so many other daily necessities are hitting both consumers and businesses alike, with smaller, local spots sometimes getting hit the hardest. The Matthews have a few prospects and are willing to help a new buyer learn the ropes of the trade before they say their goodbyes. 

Gloede-Matthews said running a family business can test and put strain on even the best of relationships and it took her and Darrell a while to find their rhythm working together. In spite of their passion and their employees who all hope a buyer will soon materialize, there is no arguing with math – and the couple need to find a buyer before too long. 

You might want to stop by one day, just in case the iconic place doesn’t make it. Someday the grandkids may ask if you ever knew the good folks up at the Hilltop. And while you’re there, keep your ears pealed. As this reporter can attest, there is a lot of news discussed around and between those tables. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected] 

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