Before Coborn’s came to town, the Huber family stood out as Belle Plaine’s grocery gurus.
Since the early days of the Bar-B-Q Days celebration, the Hubers found themselves involved in the behind-the-scenes operations. And for Huber brothers Bill and Joe, Bill’s wife Lois, and the brothers’ mother Toy Huber, the family’s selection as the 2019 grand marshals for Saturday’s parade reflects not only their hard work, but also the hard work of the grocers who came before them.
The Hubers noted that their family first began business in Belle Plaine in 1926 when 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, after making a couple of major building moves along Meridian Street over the years.
During the family’s stint as Belle Plaine’s main grocers, the Hubers ended up working their way into the Bar-B-Q Days celebration time and time again.
Bill, who was about six-years-old when Bar-B-Q Days began in 1959, stated that he is honored and humbled by his family’s selection as this year’s grand marshals.
“To me it’s such a big honor that they even asked us, and it isn’t so much for Joe and me --because we’re the third generation--but it’s for the second generation, which would be my parents Mark and Toy, as well as my uncles and aunts - Fran and Leona, Art and Pat, and Jim and Margaret,” Bill said citing his family’s past involvement with both the grocery business and the summer celebration.
The Hubers recalled that their family and others helped supply the food for Bar-B-Q Days in the early days. And when the celebration began preparing beef sandwiches, it wasn’t the cakewalk it is compared to today’s operation.
Decades ago, the beef distributed at Bar-B-Q Days was ordered raw, in large slabs in 60-80-pound boxes. Crews lined up to unload the trucks; others lined up to cut the beef down to size. Still others chopped onions, and finally others seasoned and ultimately cooked the beef. The Hubers’ last order was for 7100 pounds of beef, Joe said.
None of that is to mention the buns, which the Hubers said they, at one point or another, helped procure for the celebration as well.
All the Hubers served in various capacities to make Bar-B-Q Days tick as long as they were able, so they are no strangers to what it takes to make the celebration work. The Hubers also noted that a lot has changed since they began rolling up their sleeves, from the location of the event, which was originally downtown, to its tremendous growth in 60 years of existence.
The Hubers stated that they hope the event will encourage those living in Belle Plaine who are not native to the area to get involved with the community with no expectation of reward.
“There are a lot of people on the committees who are getting kind of tired now. If they don’t find people to take over the chairmanship of these different committees, I don’t know how Bar-B-Q Days will be able to survive. But if people continue to get involved, and not the same ones always doing it, it should last for many more years,” Bill said.
“It’s just a great community celebration,” Lois concluded.