Huber brothers turned over the keys

(From left) Bill Huber, Brian Berger and his parents, Kevin and Cindy, stood with Joe Huber last Friday, Sept. 13, after the Huber brothers turned over the keys to their building which once housed their family’s grocery business. Berger Interiors will take the building over after renovations are completed.

The building that once housed one of Belle Plaine’s most recognizable institutions in recent history has changed hands.

The building located at 301 S. Meridian St., that once belonged to the family of Bill and Joe Huber, the building’s third-generation owners, will get new life as Berger Interiors takes over what was once Red Owl and later SuperValu.

Last Friday, Bill Huber handed the keys over to Kevin and Cindy Berger and their son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Kelli, marking the end of three generations of Huber ownership and signifying the end of a chapter for Bill.

Hours after the deal with the Bergers was finalized, Bill had “just finished crying,” after considering the occasion.

Joe and Bill’s grandfather Frank and their great-uncle Ed  began a meat market on Meridian Street. In 1940, the family  took up the Red Owl franchise name, and they still consider themselves a ‘Red Owl family’  because of their 50-year affiliation.

In 1990, SuperValu Incorporated obtained Red Owl, shifting the name of Hubers’ store  in the process. Bill and Joe operated the family store until they closed their doors for good in 2010. The brothers then put their property on the market where the Bergers found it.

“It’s a very emotional time for me. My grandpa started it, and now it’s done,” Huber said. “The finality of it all just overwhelms me.”

For Joe Huber, the brothers saying goodbye to the building was a matter of history repeating itself for the Huber family.

In 1966, the brothers’ grandfather Frank and great-uncle Ed moved their small meat market shop in downtown Belle Plaine to a larger store across the street. After that, the brothers’ father Mark said goodbye to the family’s downtown location in exchange for the recently sold building. Now after 36 years of owning it, Bill and Joe are saying farewell to their building.

“I bet [my parents when they left the family’s second location] had the same emotions that me and Bill had,” Joe said. “We each had a history.”

“I drive by it, and I still think I should cut the lawn,” he continued.

According to Kevin and Cindy Berger, the move to take over the space was several months in the making, and the family has been considering a move of some sort since January.  Citing spatial constraints of their current downtown location from which they’ve operated since 1999, the Bergers stated that the Hubers’ building made a good deal of sense.

The current location of Berger Interiors at 121 S. Meridian St. is roughly 6000 square feet, so jumping up to around 14,000 square feet will more than double the business’s floor and storage space. The jump in space, Cindy said, will not only allow the Belle Plaine furniture family to sell a wider range of merchandise, but it will also give them a chance to more artfully display furniture, cabinets and flooring samples in ways more tangible than their current location.

The Bergers estimate that preparing the building, formerly owned by the Hubers, will take around six months to make it showroom-ready. Major changes to the space include adding more windows to wrap around the building and moving the entrance from the south end to the street-facing west side.

“We want to bring the building back and give it more of that retail curb appeal,” Kevin Berger said.

For Bill Huber, knowing the building will be updated from his family’s layout is a bittersweet feeling and added that the changing of hands was “meant to be.”

After multiple offers on the space, Huber stated that a number of deals were nearly made. That was before the Bergers approached Bill and his brother Joe, tepidly at first, but more seriously in recent months. The  deal materialized around two-three weeks ago, and on Friday  the deed was done.

“It’s kind of a gut-wrenching happy-sad feeling. You start thinking of all the people that worked for you and customers along the way,” Huber said. “I hope the people of Belle Plaine continue to support the Berger family, and I think they will.”

Joe added that the brothers ultimately liked what the Bergers had to offer more so than others who made offers on the space, because he felt Belle Plaine could benefit more from a retail space than from the other businesses, like a storage company,  that made offers.

The Bergers stated that they feel honored they will be able to take over a space many in Belle Plaine once knew and loved.

“The reason for all of this is because of all of the support and loyalty of the community,” Kevin Berger said. “If it wasn’t for our patrons and our customers’ loyalty, then we wouldn’t be doing this.”

In addition to their Belle Plaine location, the Bergers also own a store in St. Peter, which will be unaffected by the transition.

The Bergers stated that there are no concrete plans for their current space, but they will likely sell it or rent the space out.

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