By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
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A public meeting was held in Cuba Monday night to discuss the future of the Cuba Cash Store.
Owner Cheri Cardi said she has worried for several months that the store cannot generate enough profit to cover operating costs. A visit with her accountant last week confirmed her fears.
Expenses range from transportation fees to guarantee the truck to stock the milk cooler, to electric bills that range from $1,600 to $2,000 a month in the summer months, she said. Her milk sales totaled $78 last week, she said.
She also recently paid for roof repairs to the building. She said she called the meeting to give the community a heads up that the threat of the store closing is real, and could happen soon.
“I’m not sorry I bought the store, but I spend 65 hours a week here and am at a point where I can’t continue when I can’t earn enough to pay the store’s bills and my own bills at home,” she said. “I was willing to try to get a loan, but I can’t continue to go in the hole.”
But Cardi said she also did not want to make a decision to close the store without alerting the community. “I keep hearing the voice (of a community member) in my head saying ‘We can’t do anything to help if we don’t know there’s a problem’,” she says.
Cardi said it is day-to-day grocery sales that keep the doors open and minimize waste with products like dairy and produce. She also caters and fills large meat orders for vendors at events like the recently completed NCK Free Fair, but it is the daily traffic that’s necessary to keep the doors open, she said.
The store is stocked through Associated Wholesale Grocers, which also provides groceries to Food Mart in Belleville.
Cardi bought the store in 2016 from Laverna Huncovsky, who operated the business for many years with her late husband, Dale. The store is located in a 138-year-old limestone building on Cuba’s Main Street, and merchandise and groceries have always been sold from the location. Cardi said the building is structurally solid.
She said she worries more about the inconvenience to people in the community and fundraisers like the annual Rock-a-Thon and Harvest Festival than her own future if the store closes.
“I won’t have trouble finding another job,” she says. “I’m really heartsick about this. I’ve prayed and prayed over it, and I just don’t know the answer.”
David Procter, director of the Center for Engagement and Community Development at Kansas State University, tracks store closings in Kansas as part of the Rural Grocery Initiative. In the last decade, more than 45 independently owned groceries in towns of 2,500 people or less across the state have closed. Estimated population of Cuba is 145, according to the US Census Bureau.
Nationwide, few rural counties have more than one grocery store. Data from the USDA says that 60 percent of Kansans live more than 10 miles from a grocery store.