Saturday, September 14, 2013


Unlike many immigrants from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, my grandfather John Koshuba,  and great uncles, Joseph and Stephen Koshuba, were businessmen.  Born in the village of Ouzurnaya, Galicia, Austria, they were the sons of Feodor Koshuba and Maria Kleviak.  I have no idea what Feodor did for a living, but I have heard family stories that they were a town family.  

John Koshuba and Family, Stephen and Helen Koshuba (standing)1925

Joseph Koshuba 1916

John was born in 1880, Joseph in 1885 and Stephen in 1899.  There were three other children, Teckla, Anna and Michael, but that is story for another time.
Joseph came to the United States first, according to the 1910 census, in 1904.  John came next, possibly in 1908 (1910 census) and Stephen in 1914 (immigration records). 
The first records I could find of the older brothers were the 1910 US Census.  John was living in Peabody, MA, with this sister and brother-in-law, Teckla and Peter Wons, their two children, and was employed as a baker.
Joseph was in St Paul, Minnesota, living in a rooming house and was doing general work. Family stories said that John also lived in Grand Rapids Michigan, and was apprenticed to a tailor.
The next mention I find of Joseph and John was in 1912, in the St Paul City Directory.  Joseph was the manager of the National Window Cleaning Company, located on 408 St. Peter St, St Paul; John was also employed there as a foreman. 
Joseph married Florence Holmberg in 1913.  In the 1914 St Paul Directory,  Joseph and Florence were living at 491 Topping St, St Paul. John was still working for Joseph.
In 1915, Joseph was the owner and manager of two companies, National Window Cleaning Company and  National Sanitary While Washing Company, both located at 314 People's Bank Building.  He was doing well enough to have two advertisements in the Directory, a telephone, and stated in the ad that whitewashing could be done by either brush or machine.
In 1916, John is listed as a saloon keeper,  located at 751 Wabasha St, St Paul. In the St Paul City Council minutes,  there was a transfer of a licence to sell liquor to Joseph, recorded on June 12, 1916.  However, on October 21, 1916, the license is transferred again, from Joseph to Onefec Blalys.  In November, 1916, John married my grandmother, Pauline Rychly. 
In 1918, when he registered for the World War I draft,  John was in business for himself.  He started the Expert Window Cleaning Company at 458 Jackson St, St Paul, in competition with his brother Joseph.   At that time, Stephen was working for Joseph as a window cleaner. 
Joseph died suddenly of heart disease in January 1919, at the age of 33.  His business was sold, although his family continued to live at 886 Central, for the next 10 years.

 In 1923, Stephen was working at the Union News Agency and continued to live on Curtice St. He married Helen Rychly (yes, she was my grandmother's sister) in 1924, and moved to 152 Charles St.  He was back in the window washing business, working for John.

John and Stephen went into business together in 1934, and started Stephen's Buffet on Robert Street in downtown St Paul.  Although they sold the restaurant in 1939, it continued in business until the 1960's, under several different names.  It had a bar in the front, and a restaurant behind the bar.  According to my grandmother, the one thing that John didn't know when he started the business, was that she planned to work there.  On the first day she showed up with her apron and went to work in the kitchen, waited on tables and tended the bar, if necessary.  Since the restaurant was in downtown St Paul it served businessmen and people working in the retails stores nearby. I had lunch there in the 1960's with my mother and grandmother, and was surprised  that one of the waitresses who had worked for them in the 30's was still working there!  John sold Expert Window Washing Company  to National Window Washing Company, his brother's old business, when he went into the restaurant business.  Stephen continued to work for them as a window cleaner. 

In 1937, Stephen went into business with Victor Schlaff , and started Stephen's Bar, at 425 Jackson Street in St Paul.  They also owned a hotel that served mainly men working on the railroad. He continued to work as a partner at Stephen's Buffet for the next few years.
In 1939, the brothers sold Stephens's Buffet and Stephen and John ended their partnership.  John was at a loss without his business, and he committed suicide in March of 1940.
Stephen stayed in the bar and hotel business, and sold life insurance on the side.  He continued as a successful businessman in the Twin Cities  until he moved to Colorado in the 1970's.  He purchased a liquor store in Golden, Colorado, which he owned until he retired.  He died in 1982.

These tokens were issued to John Koshuba, which gave him a license to sell liquor. I noticed that the address was 751 Wabasha, which is interesting since the restaurant and bar was on Robert Street.

Obverse Image TC-151414: JOHN KOSHUBA, / 751 / WABASHA / ST. / ST. PAUL, MINN.
Reverse Image TC-151414: 2½

Saint Paul, Minnesota (Ramsey County), U.S.A.
Obverse Thumbnail Image: JOHN KOSHUBA, / 751 / WABASHA / ST. / ST. PAUL, MINN.Reverse Thumbnail Image: 2½

A S12 26
TC-151414 *** Koshuba Bros. Restaurant & Tavern 1934-1939
Contributed by: wlrotz