Polish Deli Closes in a Changing Greenpoint

Staropolski Meat Market & Deli will close down after 21 years of serving the Polish community. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka/Nowy Dziennik)

The closing of Staropolski Meat Market & Deli, which catered to the Polish community for over two decades, reflects not just the end of a small business but also the changing demographics of the neighborhood. Below is a translation from Nowy Dziennik‘s article in Polish.

After 21 years in business, Staropolski Meat Market & Deli is vanishing from the heart of the traditionally Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint.

“My lease has expired and I can’t extend it, because the landlord has other plans for the place,” said Staropolski’s owner, Anna Mierzwinski. “She would probably change her mind if I offered to pay $10,000 a month, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to.”

After over two decades of tending to the business and being on-the-go nonstop, Mierzwinski wants to take a break and spend time with her family.

“I am already a bit tired,” she said. “I have managed the store for all those years by myself, and have never had time for anything else. My friends have gone away for vacations and I have always been trapped in the store. I want to do something else on Christmas, and even stand in a line for groceries before the holidays. It will still be a while before I can retire, but I want to take time off this summer.

“I am planning to tour Europe, go around the world,” Mierzwinska said. “My two daughters live in Tampa, Florida. I want to spend some time with them as well.”

Customers — who have grown accustomed to the food and service offered at Staropolski Meat Market & Deli over the past 21 years — are not happy with Mierzwinska’s decision.

“Where are we going to eat now? Where are we going to do grocery shopping before the holidays? Where are we going to get goose pate or Highlander kielbasa?” they are asking.

(From left) Wiesława, salesperson, and Krystyna, cook. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka/Nowy Dziennik)

The store’s employees also regret the owner’s decision to liquidate the business. However, they unanimously agree that after years of hard work, she deserves to take a break.

All the employees have known about the planned store closure since Christmas, and have managed to find new job arrangements since then.

“Our boss has played fair with us and told us in advance we would lose our jobs, because of her decision to close down the businesss,” said Krystyna, who has worked at Staropolski as a cook. “I already have a new job lined up.

“The customers are most upset about the change,” she added. “They liked the service here and the good cuisine. Our boss always made sure that everything was in stock.”

Staropolski Meat Market & Deli is not the only Polish business which has vanished from the map of Greenpoint in recent years. Polish stores, agencies and even dance clubs have closed down because of skyrocketing rents, elderly Poles moving back to Poland or Poles choosing to live in other, cheaper neighborhoods.

“We can all see that Greenpoint’s residents are changing,” said Mieszko Kalita, a member of Community Board 1. “Poles and Latinos are practically gone. As a result, the number of stores which catered to the Polish community has dwindled. This is a simple economic rule and a necessity. Naturally, I am looking at all these changes with nostalgia. It is sad that we were not able to keep the neighborhood in Polish hands.”

The fact that no Polish-Americans were interested in taking over the business also saddens some. With its impeccable reputation for 21 years, Staropolski could continue to be a profitable store. The storefront will likely be taken over by a Greek restaurant.

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