A Polish market in the days before Christmas, when everyone is buying provisions for that day of family and feasting, is one of the busiest of the year. It was twice as accommodating that General Manager Ed Mepham of Troy’s Polish Market ( 2938 E Maple Road , 248/577-5334) and owner Marek Kolynicz to allow the Visionalist crew in to film a ‘typical’ Christmas week shopping marathon. Expecting more than 30,000 customers during the season, the market is one of four that Kolynics owns. A second is on 22 Mile and Hayes, a third at Sibley and Fourth in Wyandotte and another in Hamtramck. As locations, these markets are able to cover the major Polish communities in metro Detroit, although as Ed Mepham points out, “We have customers from as far away as Cleveland.”
One of the reasons for this, claims Mepham, is that despite the fact that it is a very serious ethnic market, it has been made completely user friendly for those of us not versed in the Polish language. All products have English translations, for example. Says Mepham, who came to Polish Market seven years ago with an impressive resume of supermarket experience, “Most non-Poles that come in here are at first in awe of the variety of products, but quickly feel comfortable. There is no ‘intimidation factor’ like in some ethnic markets. Heck, if there was, I’d be in trouble. I’m French/English!”
True enough, the market proved very easy to navigate, and Polish specialties that all of us recognize instantly, kielbasa, sauerkraut, smoked hunter’s sausages, pierogi and stuffed cabbages are clearly labeled and a snap to locate. Other more exotic items, like fresh carp and endless aisles of Polish sweets, make a trip as fascinating as a trip to a museum. It’s not all Polish specialty items, either. Mepham points out that Slavic, German and Bulgarian foodstuffs are well represented.
Still, owner Marek Kolynicz indicates that nearly seventy percent of his customers are of Polish decent, and the profusion of Polish spoken through the aisles makes this clear. A strong, mostly Polish staff adds a comfort factor to those immigrants who don’t speak much English. Butcher Mark Niekra, for example, from the town of Modliborzyce, is always ready with a broad smile and tips for purchasing the dizzying array of Polish counter meats. It’s clearly a close-knit, family type atmosphere at the Polish Market—despite the volume of customers packing the aisles, there was clear comradery among the workforce; nothing but pleasantries and quick service.
After the shoot, the Visionalist crew went on their own shopping mission, and trust us, many surprising and spectacular Polish delicacies showed up on our Christmas tables.