ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — After 81 years in business, a Star City icon — The Roanoker Restaurant — will be shutting its doors.

The owner of the famous eatery, Butch Craft, is retiring after working at The Roanoker for 52 years. She says it’s bittersweet, but mostly bitter because this wasn’t how she envisioned the restaurant closing.

“And the hardest thing about this whole retirement or closing down is telling them because we’re like a family and it really hurt to have to tell them,” said Craft.

Not only has the pandemic hit small businesses hard, but many restaurants are dealing with rising food costs and staffing shortages, which are also part of the reason The Roanoker is shutting down.

According to Craft, The Roanoker used to employ a staff of nearly 80 people, but now she only has about 48 people.

Our hearts are heavy as we make this difficult announcement.  After 81 years serving the valley, The Roanoker will close the end of May or first of June.

We tried to sell the business to someone who would keep the Roanoker food and customer service the way the Warren family and we have strived to maintain.

To our very faithful and loyal customers, we will miss you and hate to disappoint you and take away “your” place to eat and socialize. This decision was not based on my Retirement alone, but other factors brought us to this point. We can no longer struggle with all the issues of running a business.

We are thankful to all our loyal customers and staff who have made The Roanoker successful  for 81 years. All of you have been a blessing to us.

Statement released on May 14, 2022 by Butch Craft, owner of The Roanoker Restaurant

Gail Dehaesleer has been a waitress at The Roanoker Restaurant for over 30 years. She says Craft was so much more than a boss to her — she was a friend.

According to Dehaesleer, she had to be out of work for surgery and Craft even paid her insurance and let her keep her job.

Dehaesler says she loves the family-like atmosphere at The Roanoker, adding that she even has regular customers who come in every weekend. The waitress says has no idea what she will do next, but all of her regular guests have promised to check in on her.

The Roanoker’s owner has reportedly tried to sell the restaurant, but no one has come forward to buy it, so it is currently set to close either at the end of May or the beginning of June.