Larry S. Croy, a chef and restaurateur whose garlic-centric vinaigrette, sold nationwide, first won over patrons of his Perrysburg supper club, died Thursday in Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center. He was 70.
He suffered from congestive heart failure and developed complications after a fall last month, his wife, Luann Croy, said.
Mr. Croy of Perrysburg Township created Garlic Expressions in the early 1990s as a salad dressing for his Croy’s Supper Club.
“People were asking for it to take home, and it went from there,” his wife said.
He and his son, Mark, bottled the dressing and made two or three cases at a time. In 1993 they formed LarMar Foods and eventually built an addition to the restaurant just to produce Garlic Expressions. The dressing, which the Croys also tout as a marinade, uses fresh garlic. His son in the early days peeled it all — 15 pounds for each 436-bottle batch.
Local independent markets were among his first customers, including Kazmaier’s Market, run by his father-in-law, Allen Kazmaier. LarMar in 2000 moved to its own facility plant on Fort Meigs Road.
“He was very proud of it. It was his baby,” his wife said. “He built it from scratch and built it up, and it’s sold all over the country now.”
When local nonprofit groups held fund-raisers, he donated cases of Garlic Expressions, which inevitably fetched greater than market value. But most of his charity “was just people he knew,” his wife said. “He was a generous man.”
He was born Sept. 20, 1947, to Alice and Paul Robert “Chic” Croy. The family started a wholesale egg business in Perrysburg Township. He was a 1965 graduate of Perrysburg High School. Once of driving age, he helped make egg deliveries to independent grocery stores and hospitals.
“That’s how he started in the cooking business,” his wife said. One of his stops was Heather Downs Country Club, where the manager was a chef who had led the U.S. team in the culinary olympics. Mr. Croy said he’d be available, if the country club needed help in the kitchen. The manager called the next week and, with his father’s support, Mr. Croy quit the egg business for his new profession.
“You can only make so much working for your dad delivering eggs,” his wife said.
He learned his art and trade from that first job and in later stints under chefs at Inverness Club and Sylvania Country Club.
In 1981, he bought Joe Braden’s Supper Club, a small venue in Perrysburg. He relocated several years later to expanded quarters — including a large kitchen — and started Croy’s Supper Club. A local packing company supplied the beef. Fresh seafood arrived six days a week.
“We had a lot of people who came in two, three times a week,” said his wife, who shared 12-hour days there with him. “Every time anyone came in, they knew there were people they would know there. It was the place in Perrysburg to go.”
Dave Kleeberger, who became a friend in grade school, said: “The food was phenomenal.”
The restaurant closed in 2004.
Mr. Croy and his wife traveled the world and developed an affinity for the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, visiting several times a year.
“He enjoyed life. He liked to dance and meet people and talk,” his wife said.
Surviving are his wife, and high school sweetheart, the former Luann Kazmaier, whom he married July 6, 1966; daughters Alicia Hanlon and Gina McClellan; son, Mark Croy; brother, Randy Croy; sister, Laura Wott, and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Witzler Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg, with funeral services in the mortuary at 11 a.m. Friday.
The family suggests tributes to Camp Courageous & the Arc, Whitehouse; Missions International of America, Perrysburg; Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center; or Helping Hands of St. Louis.
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