Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 23, 2003, pg. 8
We conclude our focus this month on historic businesses in the Austin Avenue corridor (I’m still looking for a photograph of the Star/Branoff or Vienna Bakery at 620 Austin Avenue). One of the most enterprising immigrant families on the “west end” were the Dubina’s. Mike Dubina (1886-1959) was a native of Hidry, in the old Grodno (White Russia) province of Czarist Russia from where many Russian families from Albion came. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1907, first settling in New York where he married his wife Sophia (1878-1972) (Bilinski) the following year. The couple came to Albion in 1910, and Mike secured a job at the Albion Malleable Iron Company, first living in company housing north of the plant.
Wishing to improve their economic status in their new land of opportunity, the Dubina’s engaged in a variety of entrepreneurial enterprises in the coming years, and were among the most successful business people from the original “foreign settlement” as it was then called. The Dubina’s erected a 14-room boarding house at 717 Sheridan Road (now Grace St.) in 1914. They rented rooms to boarders at that location for the price of $2.50 per week which included meals. The 1930 U.S. Census lists five boarders there at the time.
Mike opened the first “Russian owned” grocery store, erecting the West End Grocery at 619 Austin Avenue in 1916. It operated here until 1925. He subsequently purchased a tailor shop building “kitty corner” at 700 Austin Ave. and opened another grocery there. The original location became Tyszko’s Meat Market in 1927.
The Dubina’s subsequently purchased the “Hunter’s Inn” restaurant and tourist rooms (as mentioned in the 1926 Albion City Directory) building at 604 Austin Avenue from Edward and Celia Hunter who had erected the building a few years earlier. It is labeled “Mrs. Sophia Dubina Hotel & Lunch Room” in the 1928 Albion City Directory. The book “An Ethnic History of Albion” states (pg. 53): “In the basement was a bath house with shower stalls, tubs, and a steam bath. The bath house accommodated the men who lived in the company houses where there was no inside plumbing. Most of the men of the ethnic community had to go downtown to get baths and haircuts before Mr. Dubina opened up his bath shop.” The bath house portion was discontinued after a fire destroyed the building and it was rebuilt.
The restaurant and later tavern (after Prohibition ended) was located on the main floor, while rooms were rented on the second floor. The 1930 Census shows four boarders living at this location. In the back was a dance hall which became quite a popular place, and numerous events were held here. Polka parties were held on Saturday nights, as well as popular music dances through World War II. Dubina’s Tavern became a popular social center on the “west end” of Albion.
Mike also purchased land west of Albion at the intersection of U.S. 12 and B Drive North in the mid-1920s. Here he erected a small gas station. That structure is still standing today, although it has been long closed. He furthermore purchased an old Interurban car and converted it into a restaurant at that location, as the Interurban tracks used to run across the road. After Prohibition ended, it was converted into a tavern and was run by Mr. Dubina’s daughter Katie and her husband Joe Masternak. It was commonly known as the “street car tavern.”
The Dubina’s divided the duties: Mike ran the grocery store at 700 Austin Avenue until his retirement in 1947, while Sophia ran the tavern until 1946. The grocery was sold to the Dubina’s daughter Anne and son-in-law Leland Carrigan who operated it until 1968. Dubina’s Tavern was run by Arthur Prieskorn and John Magda for several years, until it became Tony’s Tavern in the early 1950s, and later B & Bo’s Lounge in the 1980s before the building was closed around 1989. Today it remains boarded up awaiting an uncertain fate.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1939 photograph courtesy of Ruth (Romanchuk) Dean, showing Dubina’s Tavern in its heyday. The small sign on the right rear entrance to the ballroom says “Drink, Dine, Dance.” Notice the balcony in front of the second story apartments. How many of our readers remember Dubina’s Tavern? In this internet version we also present a January, 2002 photograph of the closed building.
Dubinas in 1939
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic