The waters at Cashion’s Cove were dark and silent this past week as the grand patriarch of the Cashion family, and one of our true Lake Norman treasures, slipped quietly away. Perhaps no family has had the impact on our community since the Duke Brothers and the creation of Lake Norman in 1962.
Robert T. “Bob” Cashion has been a guiding force in shaping the business and community landscape of this region for more than fifty years. He graduated from UNC in 1956 and returned home to his parent’s grocery business in Cornelius. His wife Louise joined Bob at the family business in the 1960’s, and together, the couple went about growing the organization and in the process helped create the vibrant and dynamic community we live in today.
I met Bob and Louise when I began my career with the Lake Norman Chamber in 1996. The next year when I joined the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club, it was Bob who conducted my club orientation. My memory has faded as to who attended the orientation with me that day but I still recall he stressed that our members should all be there by 11:45 and the meeting started promptly at noon.
Then as the others left, he walked me slowly to the doors of the Peninsula Yacht Club, placing his hand gently on my shoulder and with a sly smile he pointed out, “You being with the Chamber, you need to get there earlier. Meet the folks as they arrive,” he advised. “It will be good for you…and it will be good for the chamber.”
It was a lesson he knew well. Many of North Mecklenburg’s older citizens still recount the days of Cashion’s Grocery where a trip to the store meant being greeted by Bob who knew each customer by name. He not only listened to their stories, he cared about their families. Bob extended credit before there were merchant cards and was always there to lend a helping hand to those who needed it.
Bob and Louise believed in giving back to the community that gave them so much. Each year Cashion’s would “give back” one percent of their sales to the community. He continued that policy through the life of the grocery business giving back to the community in excess of $2 million via local churches, schools, scouting programs, civic groups and other charitable organizations.
As the community and region grew, the Cashion’s saw the need for a recreational facility for families to enhance their physical and spiritual life. Bob along with a leadership team went door to door to raise the funds to establish and build today’s Lake Norman YMCA. A few years ago, they renewed their belief in the YMCA with a gift of $250,000.
Bob and Louise sold the grocery business in 1997 to Lowe’s Foods and the family shifted their energy to the operations of convenience stores. He continued to expand his business in that market and established what is known today as Cashion’s Quik Stops.
Throughout their very successful business career, Bob and Louise continued to be generous to their community. They recognized a need to enrich the lives of children and families and made a significant gift to build a Cornelius Library and in 2005 contributed to the building fund to establish a permanent home for the Chamber of Commerce.
When asked to write something about Bob, I found it impossible to do so without recognizing Louise who has been his wife, business partner, and best friend for more than 50 years. Together, they created a business, raised a family, and taught each of us what it means to be servant leaders. It was an ethic they passed on to their sons John, Bobby and Gordon.
As Robert instructed many years ago, I still arrive early each week at Rotary, going from table to table to greet our members. This past week I simply sat at our table I have shared with Bob and his longtime friend Sam Wilson since 1997, and reflected on the men who taught so much to so many.
The Lord provides each of us with special talents. That is our gift from God. How we use those talents is our gift back to God. Some build castles. Others build communities. Then there are those special few, who use those talents to change the face of their community and in the process, touch all of our lives. Bob and his wife Louise have done all three.
Bill Russell, President
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce