Foreclosure threatens Cunha's, San Benito

Cunha's Country Grocery will close in the coming weeks, according to its owners. Review file photo

Citing about two years of lagging business, the owners of Cunha’s Country Grocery intend to close down the city’s landmark store in the coming weeks.

Operating for decades as the city’s hometown grocery, Cunha’s has been a popular destination both for locals and tourists in the city’s downtown core.

The owners of the property, Franco Carrubba and family, say the business has been struggling for years to compete for customers against Safeway and New Leaf Community Market, two grocery chains that are larger and had more resources. Speaking for his family, Giuseppe Carrubba said the decision had to be made to close up Cunha’s in order to save the family’s other businesses. The family has been embroiled in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since 2009. The family also owns the San Benito House and a section of the Shoreline Station. Carrubba said those business would remain open.

“It’s a sad thing to do on a personal level, but on the business level, it’s the best thing my family could do,” he said. “We tried to keep it open because it’s a Half Moon Bay landmark, but there's only so many months and so many years that we can keep losing money.”

No exact date has been set yet for the store to close down, but Carrubba indicated it could be within the next month.

Operating Cunha’s Country Grocery has not been easy for the Carrubba family. It purchased the landmark Half Moon Bay business for more than $5 million from Bev Ashcraft in 2007. A year later, Franco Carrubba threatened legal action against Ashcraft, saying she broke a provision of their contract by working for rival New Leaf Community Markets. At the time, Carrubba accused Ashcraft of trying to destroy his business.

In 2009, Carrubba briefly listed the 80-year-old grocery for sale. At the time, he denied the business was really for sale and his real estate agent said Carrubba was merely looking for investors to help cover costs.

Later that year, Carrubba filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and creditors owned more than $1.5 million went to court seeking to foreclose on and auction off Carrubba’s Half Moon Bay properties. At that time, bankruptcy documents provided a list of his debts, including a $748,250 promissory note to the United American Bank of Half Moon Bay and more than $200,000 in credit-card debt spread over 10 accounts.

In 2010, court documents revealed that Wells Fargo and East West banks were owed $9.8 million – an amount bank attorneys said exceeded the $7.7 million worth of Carrubba’s commercial holdings in Half Moon Bay.

The most spectacular chapter in the long history of Cunha’s was a fire in 2003 that burned the building to the ground. The community rallied around Ashcraft and her employees and the business was quickly rebuilt.

(16) comments

marholt

Dear Realist - "I see them drinking their beer in paper bags! You just sit out there and eat your Cunha’s sandwich and you will bear *whiteness* to these occurrences." I hope you understand the irony and great humor in your typo!

George

Realist is correct, to a point.

That point, the announcement of Cunha's closing, was the point of no return. "...shop at Cunha’s and help save the store and the community before it’s too late!"

It's now too late, unfortunately.

Another unfortunate point that Realist brings forward is the lack of needed community support. There are some that will tell us that when Bev and Carrubba had their 'misunderstanding', that many of Bev's friends sided with her in a personal quest to trash Carrubba. Well now, we can dispel that rumor as we all know nobody takes anything personal in HMB.

Meanwhile, we are going to lose Cunha's Country Store - or rather, we've lost it.

That is a shame, in more ways than one.

TheRealist

Remember, Cunha's has a commitment to donate 10% of profits to the middle school and high school, but without business from the community, there are no profits to benefit our schools. Let's get out there and help save Cunha's for the betterment of our community!

With regard to the park, yes there are problems. I’ve seen cat calling, blatant ogling of women and young girls and let’s not forget the prolific public consumption of alcohol as well. I see them drinking their beer in paper bags! You just sit out there and eat your Cunha’s sandwich and you will bear whiteness to these occurrences.

TheRealist

There is only one reason Cunha’s 112 year legacy is coming to an end and it has to do solely with the lack of community support. Fellow Costsiders who preach community, thrive on diversity and trash corporations are instead doing the opposite. They are bashing Cunha’s, trash-talking the owner and shopping at mega corporation stores like New Leaf and Safeway. New Leaf is NOT a community market, that’s just in the name. They are a mega corporation. Go out and stay true to your beliefs, practice what you preach, shop at Cunha’s and help save the store and the community before it’s too late!

victory

Mr. Carruba bought a well run prosperous town jewel, a high end, quality "boutique" grocery store, and managed to turn it into a seven eleven. His attitude was a disaster, publicly blaming Bev, blaming the employees, blaming "the locals" blaming New Leaf, blaming everyone but himself. He either had no skills, no desire, or or no business sense in keeping an excellent high end grocery store, the pride of Half Moon Bay, going, and let the store rapidly slide downhill. The tremendously varied product lines were dropped, while prices rose. An intrusive big screen tv and ugly cash machine cheapened the historic building. The shelves became emptied, the cash register was unattended. It is no wonder people stayed away. Hopefully someone with pride, a good memory and good heart will return Cunhas to it's former warm and welcoming glory!
Yes, the butcher was great!
The comment about the park was unwarranted unless they were referring to the landscaping, or lack of it. Having lived nearby for 25 years, being a female, I have never had an unpleasant moment with the men who are there looking for work.

veronica

How sad.

Tyler Durden

"...I won't mention the "park' across the street as this is too controversial.."

Well you did mention it. And now that you did, perhaps this should be considered as a potential serious problem with the downtown business environment. But what do I know?

Brian Holt

I shopped at Cunha's whenever I could to support the Main St business - but reality is it was a huge missed opportunity. We live within miles of some of the best locally produced foods in the world. Safeway is the convention market. New Leaf is the higher quality/organic market - Cunha's could've been the true locals market, carrying Leftcoast and Markeegard Grass Fed Beef, Early Bird Chickens from Pescadero, Harley Farms cheeses....etc..etc..etc... It could be a destination food mart, almost a small scale SF Ferry Building.

Ricky99

This is hard to take...with the property across the street boarded up due to the drawn out process in getting plans approved...( Chad tried)...and then the economy making developing this property best left for another day...and now Cunha's to be closed ...you have two of the main arteries to the heart of HMB Main Street business blocked....The good news is that the Parking meter idea seems to be abandoned...Our good folks at HMB Council are trying desperately to find funds for HMB....but at the same time ...We need to think about unclogging the arteries....get the heart pumping...and keeping/making Main street a thriving place to visit/ live...enjoy...Any ideas...
How about we take down the boards from the boarded up up ol' Gas Station and have some art fairs..and music Stage where the gas station was...this summer...Farmer's market...come on back to main street please...we love you Erin...The Heart of our town needs to be pumping...( I won't mention the "park' across the street as this is too controversial...let's go the easiest and funnest route...I will bring the concert series if folks will clear the way here...as Mickey Rooney once said "lets put on a show"!

Kendall Flint

[sad] This just breaks my heart. When Steve and I first moved here and lived downtown, it was such a treat to be able to walk to Cunha's and get what we needed. The selection was great, good quality and great people. We continue to shop there as well as New Leaf and Safeway - trying to spread our business around - though we know it's been a struggle for Franco and his family to keep it rolling. I'm deeply concerned about the impact of shuttered businesses on Main Street especially given the upcoming construction project. I hope folks support those that are still with us and shop local whenever possible.

Moss Beach Mom

To Lou Estradamos: I hit the "report" button on you post erroneously. I'm so sorry! It was not intentional and I can't seem to reverse it...

John Charles Ullom

I was buddies with the butcher. Real nice guy who rode the bus over the hill with me on Mondays on his way to visit family in the South Bay. I hope things work out for him and all the other employees.

Lou

Thanks for running a nice shop! Main street just lacks the traffic to support it.

Susan G

Very sad but not at all unexpected.

George

I am very sorry to hear of this. It is a sad story and another loss for HMB.

Mr Carrubba came to HMB with quite a splash, spending money all over town, buying businesses and starting businesses. Some may remember the train car (old Chamber location) that he painted with a heart, loving HMB. Unfortunately, he did not get the love in return.

Cunha's sells the best meats in town and at better prices than you'll find anywhere, including Costco. The staff at the store are friendly and knowledgable. Cunha's history speaks for itself.

It would have been nice if Cunha's had been better supported by locals, as it was when Bev owned it, after Carrubba purchased it. At first, it was. Once Carrubba and Bev got into it (regardless of who was "right"), business went down.

I have no idea how this will play out, but I will certainly miss Cunha's as it is and as it has been.

NACHOS

NO!!!!!!!! :(

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