Read the original story in Polish at Nowy Dziennik
Translated and condensed by Aleksandra Slabisz
Last year ended with two stores popular among Polish immigrants closing down, leaving many customers sad to see their favorite food joints go.
“Dear customers. After 25 years serving our friends in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, yesterday was our last day of business—aptly Thanksgiving Day. We are thankful for all of our loyal friends and customers, but as many small businesses today, online competition and corporate supermarket chains moving into our area, has forced us to make the tough decision to close our door,” said the message from The Garden owners, posted on the store’s door Nov. 29.
Located at 921 Manhattan Avenue and run by the Tappers, a family of Polish immigrants, The Garden was one of the most popular and well-liked Greenpoint grocery stores that offered organic and vegan food, soups and comfort food at affordable prices.
Gone also is Sikorski Meat Market. “After 45 years, we have decided to finally retire,” said Patricia Sikorski, who owned and operated this meat lovers’ Mecca at 603 Manhattan Ave., as well as a Polish deli in Bethpage, Long Island. Both locations officially closed on Dec. 23. “It has been our pleasure serving you for the last 45 years, and we thank you for your loyalty and patronage. We will miss you,” the Sikorskis said in a note to customers.
Greenpoint, once the heart of the vibrant Polish American community, has been undergoing gentrification. Polish businesses have been disappearing from the panorama of this neighborhood, pushed out by rising rents or by demographic, generational and cultural changes. The expansion of supermarkets and chain stores that engage in price dumping and can afford expensive advertising has created extra competition that not every small business can withstand.
Some Polish establishments in Greenpoint have also closed when their immigrant owners decided to retire, and have no one to pass their business on to. Their U.S.-educated children are often busy developing their own careers in fields other than small business and retail, and are unwilling to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
Luckily, there are new stores and businesses being established by Polish Americans that aim to fill the void left by The Garden and Sikorski Meat Market. They cater to Polish immigrants but also try to attract the non-ethnically Polish residents of northern Brooklyn.
The Garden was taken over by new owners, and its name has been changed to the Downtown Market, but the store aspires to carry on its predecessor’s legacy.
While Sikorski Meat Market in Greenpoint is closed for good, its sister store in Long Island was to be taken over by new owners Ewa Maksimczuk and Andrzej Filipkowski, who plan to operate under a new name: Polish Eagle Meat Market.
“We are not going to make any major changes. Our offer will include the same range of cold cuts, meats and grocery products. Maybe we will add something new, but will focus on maintaining the same high quality Sikorski Meat Market had,” said Maksimczuk, adding that she was going to keep the interior decor of the store intact. “The customers liked the looks of the deli and felt comfortable here. We want to leave it as it is – cozy, warm and homey,” said the new owner.
In Greenpoint, Sikorski fans can find something similar at Steve’s Food Market, which opened at the beginning of January at 104 Nassau Ave. It makes meat products in-house and employs one butcher who worked at the Sikorski Meat Market for many years, and another with 15 years of experience gained at the similarly named Steve’s Meat Market, which operated in the same building as the new store for 43 years before closing in 2015.
Steve’s Meat Market founder Stefan Tychaciński still owns the building, and welcomed a new butcher shop there.
“Our store will be like Steve’s Meat Market, but we are expanding our offer for lunches and breakfast to go,” said Marian Nowakowski, owner of the new store.
Steve’s Food Market also strives to cater to Greenpoint’s newcomers. “We will put special emphasis on Polish food, but we will also offer international and American cuisine,” said Nowakowski.
Steve’s isn’t the only new business opened in the last year by Polish Americans in Greenpoint. It followed Happy Zoe Vegan Bakery, which launched a year earlier, as well as the already-famous pierogi joint Pierożek. A Polish female entrepreneur opened Kaskade in place of the Polish-owned French Epi, and the Mazur Meat Market has resumed operations after a months-long renovation.