135-year old Cuba Cash nearly unchanged since it was built
By Cynthia Scheer
Special to The Telescope
For 135 years the people of Cuba have been going to the same building for groceries. The building has seen a few owners through the years, and the interior has seen a little remodeling, but the outside is nearly unchanged. The large stone building located on Cuba’s main street has been maintained as a grocery store throughout history.
The building and business changed ownership for the first time in three decades when Cheri Cardi, of Cuba, bought Cuba Cash Store in October 2016. She is running the store with help from husband Walt and children Noah and Autumn. And some guidance by Laverna Huncovsky, who owned the store with husband Dale until his death in 2014.
Huncovsky credits the business venture to her husband. She was a beautician; he was working at the co-op. His mother worked at Cuba Cash Store for LaVern and Wilda Kopsa, and the Kopsas were looking for a buyer for the store.
“Dale just got this whim that we should buy it, and I didn’t disagree, but I wasn’t sure,” she said.
She still remembers the family’s “grand opening” celebration when they purchased the store: Son Quint was about 12, and he and his friends helped serve hot dogs.
Daughter Kassie, now 29, “grew up” in the store,” she said. The Huncovskys took her to work with them and set her in the corner with a miniature sofa and toys. When she got fussy they carried her around, setting her down on the counter while they waited on customers.
“Dale thought the store would be great for family,” Laverna Huncovsky said. “And it was. All the kids’ friends would come in.”
Selling the store was “emotional,” she said. “My kids grew up there. Lots of family things happened there. It was my home away from home.”
In the beginning
There is some debate on the early history of the stone building now known as the Cuba Cash Store.
According to the 1975 publication, “Homeland Horizons, Places and Things to See in Republic County,” N. O. Dannefer built the stone building in 1881 soon after Cuba was settled and the B & O Railroad came through.
Stones for the building came from a pasture south of Cuba, which is now owned by Bob Trecek and his sister, Joan Holmberg.
The City of Cuba Pictorial Album has a different version. The “V. Kesl and Sons General Store” was built by John Swan using rocks shipped from Marysville, according to the album. The store was run by “Mr. Dannefer.”
Several Cuba natives dismissed the pictorial album’s version.
Regardless of the version, the building housed the first store in Cuba, and the outside is nearly unchanged from the day it opened.
Dannefer sold the business in 1893 to Vencil Kesl and sons, who operated the store for 35 years. It was a grocery store and general merchandise store and was quite large for those times, according to “Homeland Horizons.”
According to an account by E. F. Stepanek, who researched Cuba history many years ago, the “Kesl Mercantile” building “was quite large for its day.”
Since the Kesls, the store has been owned by Pete Iverson and sons, Ben Preston, James Wiruth, Clarence Lang, Wes Klima, and LaVern and Wilda Kopsa, who owned the store for 26 years. LaVern Kopsa made homemade bologna in the old-fashioned meat department using a 100-year-old sausage stuffer and an old recipe, according to “Homeland Horizons.” The bologna was smoked behind the store, and corn cobs were used in the smoking process.
Laverna Huncovsky, who is a Cuba native, said the store has changed slightly: the shelves used to be taller, and the cash register has occupied several locations at the front of the store. Extra groceries used to be stored in the basement.
The large stone building was built to accommodate several individual businesses, each with their own storefront. The space next door to the grocery store used to be the Masonic Lodge. The Huncovskys then used it for parties and storage. There is a door between the store and the former lodge for access.
But several things haven’t changed. The meat counter remains in use in its original location. Loyal customers continue to support the store. And the desire to keep a grocery store in the 135-year-old stone building lives on.
“Cheri is about as strong a person to run [the store] as anybody,” Laverna Huncovsky said.