Cuba’s grocery store will transition to new ownership next week
By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor
Bologna and brisket, a full line grocery store and fresh meats will continue to be a mainstay on Cuba’s main street.
Cuba Cash Store owner Laverna Huncovsky expects to pass her apron to new owner Cheri Cardi, Cuba, next week, after 30 years behind the cash register and meat counter and every aisle in between.
Huncovsky and her husband Dale, who died in November 2014, took ownership of the store 30 years ago from LaVern and Wilda Kopsa, who owned it 20 years before that.
“You don’t see little mom and pop grocery stores like all towns had 40 or 50 years ago,” Cardi said this week. “I plan to do everything in my power to keep the store going.”
Cardi received support from the Republic County revolving loan fund and the E-Communities grant money that the county secured several years ago to loan to businesses.
“This is why we exist,” said revolving loan treasurer Kay Shoemaker, Monday, when she presented the Cuba Cash Store request to Republic County Commissioners for approval. “To provide venture capital to keep a local business here.”
Cardi said her family, husband Walt, son Noah and daughter Autumn will help with different aspects of the business. “I think Noah is more excited than I am,” she said of her son, who graduated from Republic County High School in 2016. “He is my motivation and inspiration.”
Walt Cardi will continue to operate a tree removal service, but will assist cutting and smoking meat, and Autumn is a student at RCHS. Cardi said she plans to return homemade ring bologna to the meat counter, an item that was discontinued after Dale’s death. She said she hasn’t been able to find the original recipe used by Huncovsky and LaVern Kopsa–”they didn’t have it written down”–but believes she can make a recipe that will suit the tastes for customers who miss the Czech staple.
The store will continue to stock a full line of groceries, and will add a fountain pop machine, Cardi said.
Third owner in 50 years to continue small town grocery store tradition
The purchase of the store coincides with a change in grocery distributors. Affiliated Foods Midwest, Norfolk NE, which stocked the Cuba Cash, recently merged with Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc, Kansas City. Both are retailer-owned cooperatives.
The combination of the two cooperatives into the largest existing grocery cooperative was confirmed last month at a vote of Affiliated Foods members in Omaha.
Huncovsky said there initially was concern that AWG would not deliver to a small grocery store. She credits Affiliated Foods staff with helping ensure that the Cuba Cash would receive a grocery truck every week. This week’s delivery is the last by Affiliated Foods, and the switch to AWG happens next week.
Cardi also praised Food Mart manager Jim Crim, who has offered to assist her with the transition to AWG, which also supplies the Belleville grocery store.
“AWG is a good company, and we think the prices will be better,” Cardi says. She said AWG will not require a minimum order to stop at the store. She also plans to switch to a barcode system that will allow her to digitally place orders.
Huncovsky said she plans to help Cardi with the store at least through the end of the year. Then she will be looking for a new line of work.
“I can’t not work,” she laughs. “But it’s going to be a little different. But this will allow me to get away and get to see more of my grandchildren’s activities. “There’s stress (in this business), but there are also a lot of memories,”