The man and woman, both dressed to the nines in traditional Czech clothing, tower above a milkshake machine.
These days, they smile at visitors who pass through the main entrance to Cubby’s, 610 S. 13th St. The pair are newcomers to the convenience store. But not to the neighborhood.
For years, the 55-by-44.5-inch paintings hung just a half-mile down the road, in the dining room of the celebrated Bohemian Cafe, which closed for business last September. In January, items from the cafe were sold at an auction.
Cathy Wilson, who owns Cubby’s with her husband, DeLone, came home with the paintings. She wanted to own a piece of the place that had meant so much to her and her family, the place where they had spent holidays, birthdays and baby showers.
And displaying them in the Old Market store, she said, was a no-brainer.
“I wanted them to be where people could see them,” she said. “When you walk into the store, it’s just happy. It was a natural fit.”
Cathy had been a regular at the Bohemian since she was a year old. When the family dined there, she and her two siblings shared one plate. Her parents later told her it was all they could afford.
She continued to visit the Bohemian as she grew. She celebrated a baby shower there. And every year, during the Thanksgiving holidays, the family filled a table at the Bohemian.
Cathy ordered the same meal every time: the roast beef.
On a recent day, Cathy and DeLone met with the former owners of the Bohemian — Terry Kapoun, his wife, Stephanie, and his mother, Mert — and talked of, among other things, how the Wilsons felt when they found out the restaurant would close.
“We were brokenhearted,” Cathy said. “I just didn’t believe it.”
Of course, the family came to accept the planned closing, DeLone said. And they resolved to visit as many times as possible before that.
It’s a sentiment Stephanie said the Kapouns heard more than once from customers before the restaurant closed. In its final days, the restaurant drew crowds of customers, eager for one last meal.
Even so, Terry said, the family was surprised at just how many people turned out for the January auction. Pieces of the store went to various places, Terry said. Some to museums. Some to collectors.
Cathy knew she would leave with something that day, she just wasn’t sure what.
“I had never seen the paintings off the wall,” she said. “I didn’t realize how beautiful they were.”
The paintings, two of a set, were painted for Terry Kapoun’s grandparents, who took over ownership of the restaurant in 1950 and moved it to the 13th Street location in 1959. When the restaurant moved, Terry said, his grandparents had a lot of extra wall space to fill.
Today, they’re the latest in a series of historical features at the 13th Street Cubby’s, DeLone said. On the ceiling above the paintings hangs a chandelier from Vivace, an Old Market Italian restaurant that closed in 2015. Below it, an island counter features reclaimed wood from an Old Market warehouse.
The months since the Bohemian closed have been an adjustment for the Kapouns. They’ve had to get used to not seeing all the customers, Terry said. And the old 13th Street building has been sold.
So, the family agreed, it’s nice to know that, just down the street, there’s a piece of the Bohemian they’ll always be welcome to see.