Polish Market Bakery, February 3, 2007
They call it ‘the plant’, and is, in fact the processing ground zero for all four of Marek Kolynicz’s Polish Markets, cranking out rye loaves, pierogi, kapusta and year-round paczki by the tens of thousands six days a week.
Located in a refurbished sausage factory in the heart of downtown Hamtramck, the plant has been operational for five years and forms the vital ‘feed’ source that allows the Polish Markets to maintain a standard of ‘old country excellence’, by which general manager Ed Mepham describes as “fresh ingredients, no preservatives, nothing artificial.”
He goes on to point out that the volume of customers that pass through Polish Market doors every day (locations are strategic and encompassing: Hamtramck, Troy, Wyandotte and Macomb Township) insure enough product turnover that bread and pastry never lay over more than the day they’re baked and allows a standard of quality and freshness to remain the hallmark of what the stores can offer.
“We always try to market beyond the Polish community with our excellence in product, whether homemade or imported. The Polish community is our lifeblood, of course, but we already attract 99% of them locally, who can by ‘home country’ items here that simply aren’t available elsewhere. We are getting the word out to other Eastern Europeans, Romanians, Yugoslavs, Bulgarians, that plenty of our shelf items are familiar to them as well. And of course, fresh bread and pastry are universally appealing among Detroiters.”
Mepham, who is not Polish, took the Visionalist crew on an early morning tour and filming session of ‘the plant’. The overnight shift generally begins in the evening and runs through the night with eight to ten workers assigned to bread baking, pastry making, and the various savory products that the Polish Market sells fresh daily. On the morning of our filming, this included cheese-filled crepes, pork pierogies, the luscious stuffed cabbage for which the markets are justifiably known, sauerkraut and the very-ethnic bigos, or Hunter’s Stew, which has as its base one or more of the dozens of sausages that Mepham has delivered from Chicago each week. Says Mepham, “We take delivery of eighteen pallets of sausage a week, nearly ten thousand pounds.”
The ‘big day’ for the plant of course, is Paczki Day, which in 2007 falls on February 20th. The night before is like April 14th at H & R Block, and the crew has been gearing up already for weeks. On that single ‘Fat Tuesday’, Polish Markets will sell upward of 50,000 paczki, and the freezers are already loaded with frozen balls of dough awaiting an early morning thaw and a jelly filling for this uniquely ‘Detroit’ celebration