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.