Neighborhood mainstay Huber's marking a century in business

Neighborhood mainstay Huber's marking a century in business

CHAMPAIGN — What's your pleasure: beer or candy?

Customers have been able to get both at Huber's since not long after World War I ended — well, except for that long dry spell while Prohibition was the rule of the land.

Considered by many to be one of the last of the great neighborhood bars, a customer there Friday described it as "where everybody knows your name" and didn't get laughed at.

Today, the business celebrates its centennial, to be marked with a mayoral proclamation.

At the Church Street spot, kids can still buy what used to be called penny candy through a sliding window, owner Linda Cross said Friday, and there's always a treat for a dog.

It was a Huber who started Huber's West End Store in 1918. His son took over, and eventually Jim Cross, a firefighter who'd "always wanted a bar," bought it, his widow said.

Part of the transaction: The name Huber's had to remain — and it does, even though the Crosses have put 29 years into it.

Shortly after opening, Huber's had to deal with Prohibition, switching for several years to selling bread, milk, pencils and paper, Linda Cross said.

"My mom could remember buying ice cream here," she said.

And while long gone are the days when you could buy a cigar there, a customer pointed out Friday that if you touch the walls, the smell still comes off on your finger.

"Once, I could smoke here. I still smoke cigars — out in my garage," said regular Fred Seeber.

He has a favorite bar in his hometown of Monticello but regularly makes the trip up Interstate 72 because "I like the people, the ambiance and so many familiar things."

The Crosses made the place their own over the years, expanding the bar by converting a storage room and adding a wing filled with windows on the east side.

And they revised the woodwork. Now, the cabinets may be older than the establishment; the back bar certainly is.

"We bought it in a town near Paxton," Cross said. The former owners said it was from the 19th century, and they no longer had any use for it. The Crosses took the marble to Springfield for polishing.

Brothers Mark and Dave Oliveira of Champaign said they come to the bar to meet their buddies, including Chuck Dunnum.

Mark remembers the place as a kid.

"Dave and I grew up buying candy back in the day," he said.

"All the stuff your dentist loves," Cross said.

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