A Very Brief History
By Ron Copeland
The Little Grill has been a restaurant in Harrisonburg, VA since the 1940’s manifesting in many incarnations under many different owners. In the early 1980’s, the Grill became hipified when a young man by the name of Christopher Boyer, working for then owner Maria Prytula, started renting the place out on weekend nights to present rock shows, theater, cheap beer and super spicy chili. Chris bought the restaurant in 1985 with blues musician and down home cook extraordinaire, Bob Driver, and The Little Grill became a full service, 3 meals a day restaurant with live entertainment on the weekends. John Eckman bought out Boyer’s share of the business in 1986 – he and Driver sold the restaurant to Tom Kildea in 1990, and Tom sold the restaurant to his former employee Ron Copeland in 1992.
Copeland’s initial contributions to the Grill legacy were the Free Food For All Soup Kitchen, which has served a hot noon meal at the Little Grill for free to Anyone in the World every Monday since October of 1992, and menu changes which made the restaurant more and more appealing to healthy minded eaters and vegetarians. Copeland also began a many years long trek to slowly rid the restaurant’s product line of multi-nationals such as Coca-cola, Anhauser-Busch, Miller, Coors, and Folgers.
In 2002, Copeland began attending regular meetings with a few of his workers and together they formed a worker-owned corporation called The Little Grill Cooperative which would ultimately, in June of 2003, purchase the restaurant from Copeland using what they called “community financing” to procure the down payment. So on June 1, 2003, the latest incarnation of the Little Grill was born: The Little Grill Collective. Since then the collective has continued to work in the direction of localizing where our food comes from, cooking food with a conscience, and creating a healthy work environment for fulfilling job experience.
Worker-Owners of our Past
Since the Little Grill became a collective in 2003 there have been many people who have touched and changed the Little Grill in many ways, and though they had to leave us in their own time, they are still in our hearts. Here they are, the previous members of the LGC:
Ken Gibson (Grinder)