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Key Ingredients: Crabill's Hamburgers, Urbana, Ohio

  • Short Link:
  • Filename: KISB009IM11.JPG
  • Format: Digital Image

  • Title: Crabill's Hamburgers, Urbana, Ohio

  • Description: Crabill's Hamburgers exterior.

  • General Information: Key Ingredients Project: This project sponsored by the Ohio Humanities Council and supported by the American Folklore Society and the OSU Center for Folklore Studies.

  • Primary Collector: Sheila Bock

  • Last Name of Primary Collector: Bock

  • Other Collectors on this Project: Ashley Overstreet

  • Collecting Location: Champaign County, Ohio

  • Collecting Date: July 7, 2006

  • Key Words: restaurant, hamburgers, family business

  • Collector's notes: Crabill’s is owned by Marsha, granddaughter of Forrest Crabill, the original owner, and her husband. A milkman before entering the burger business, Forrest Crabill started selling hamburgers in 1927 (made small the way his mother made them) out of a buggy for a nickel. In 1929, he moved into a more stable location. Besides the prices, the menu has not changed much since (hamburgers now cost 60 cents). One key difference on the menu is that Forest only offered mustard, relish, and onions as condiments. In 1990, they added ketchup. Marsha notes that she can tell the difference between new customers and those who have been coming for years, because the “oldtimers” never order their burgers with ketchup. Forrest died very young of a heart attack, so his wife Frida had to take over the business (with 7 children at home). Frida retired at the age of 65, and Marsha’s cousin took over. They rented the building, and in 1988, the owner of the building wanted to sell it. Marsha’s cousin did not want to buy the building, so the business closed. Marsha and her husband started Crabill’s up again out of a buggy in 1989. They had gone to school for fashion merchandising and were working in a factory before then, so they had no restaurant experience. Within an hour of opening up, they sold out. They now rent their current location at 727 Miami Street.

    Marsha remembers working for her grandmother at Crabill’s from when she was in kindergarten. The whole family is still actively involved in running the restaurant, for now her 3 kids work their in the summer.

    The old shop had only 6 wooden stools, and the new shop is three times bigger than the old one, even though it seats only 8 stools (the six original plus two extra) at the counter. Forrest wanted to keep it small because the smaller the building, the lower the overhead.

    Because Crabill’s has been in Urbana for so long, customers often come in with their kids saying that they used to eat there when they were younger, leaving the high school campus (which was nearby) for lunch and getting into trouble for coming back too late. They get a lot of regular customers from Urbana, but they do not get many college students, and Marsha really wants to tap into the market at Urbana University. At the moment, Marsha does not want to franchise, because she likes knowing the customers when they come in, if not their names, what they want to order. For example, she’ll see people in the parking lot and say ““Here comes 3 doubles…” Marsha feels that it is this atmosphere that draws people in, so that they do not need to advertise. All their advertisement is done by word of mouth and the T-shirts they sell.

    See the menu below. In addition, Crabill’s also sells pies. Marsha’s mom used to make them, then her, then her sister. Now the pies are made in Springfield.

    Hamburgers 60 cents Cheeseburgers 65 cents Doubles Hamburgers 90 cents Cheeseburgers 95 cents Hot dog $1.25 Cheese Dog $1.35 Chili Dog 2.45 Chili Cheese Dog 2.50

    Soup 8 oz $1.25 12 oz $2.25