By Bill Blankenship
Patrons of C.W. Porubsky’s Deli and Tavern are invited to swap stories Friday evening about the fabled Little Russia eatery.
As part of an effort to produce a documentary about Porubsky’s and its neighborhood, the Center for Kansas Studies at Washburn University is sponsoring a story swap from 5 to 7 p.m. at the business at 508 N.E. Sardou.
The public is invited to the event “as long as they bring a memory, a photo or their support,” said Matthew Porubsky, grandson of the business’ founder, Charles Porubsky, and co-director of the documentary along with Jeff Carson.
Porubsky’s has been a North Topeka fixture for 63 years, surviving flood, fire, and sweeping cultural and economic changes.
In addition to commemorating Porubsky’s, the documentary also will explore themes of community, the culture of food, and the importance of locally owned businesses in establishing cultural pride and identity.
“Over its long life, Porubsky’s, in stark contrast to the multitude of fast-food outlets, has become a community icon in Topeka and northeast Kansas,” said Tom Schmiedeler, Center for Kansas Studies director. “It is important to tell the story of this family-owned business, to create a collective memory of community interaction and foster a greater appreciation of the social capital generated by such enterprises.”
A major portion of the film’s content will be composed of firsthand stories from Porubsky’s patrons from over the years, and Friday’s event will bring some of those voices together.
“There are so many stories that I have heard from people I know, that I can’t imagine how many more stories there are from people I’ve never met,” Porubsky said. “This event gives the community a chance to participate in the film and to share their personal experiences of the store over the years.”
The story swap also will be a fundraiser for the documentary, which has garnered the financial support of some area businesses and individuals, but is still in need of donations for production costs.
The Porubsky family will be in attendance, serving spirits, refreshments and the food that has put the place on the map, including the legendary hot pickles.
However, the “world-famous Porubsky chili” won’t be served.
As a rule, chili isn’t available at Porubsky’s on a Friday, and you don’t argue with a rule that has been observed since the 1950s, Porubsky said.
Bill Blankenship can be reached
at (785) 295-1284