Mini Euromart brings hard-to-find continental cuisine to the Adirondacks
By Amy Scattergood
The door to Mini Euromart, a tiny import grocery in Lake Placid, functions like a portal as much as an entryway. The entrance is as nondescript as the 900-square-foot shop, embedded inside a little roadside shopping center on the outside of town. But once inside, the wealth of Northern European goods is an unexpected treasure trove, its shelves loaded with wheels of raclette, Russian teas, German chocolate and marzipan, Siberian dumplings and Polish pierogi, Danish cheeses, bags of kasha and cans of bread kvass.
Anna and Bogdan Polak opened the shop the last week of November and have been regularly adding specialty items — mostly requests from customers eager to find a local source for foods and ingredients they grew up with or came to love from trips abroad.
Every week Bodgan drives down to New York City and a few surrounding New Jersey neighborhoods to pick up the items, mostly sourced from small family-owned suppliers. The trips are necessary as the small shops that produce the types of goods the Polaks want don’t or can’t ship to the North Country. Of the 20 or so suppliers the Polaks currently use, Bogdan picks five or six to visit each trip.
“Every week we have more items,” said Anna one recent morning as the Polaks’ son Justin, 21, ran up a customer’s order. “Last week we brought in some Greek items,” she said, noting that her husband just found a Sicilian supplier. Then, she said, smiling, “we take it home and try it.”
The Polaks are originally from Poland, where they grew up with many of the foods they now stock. Anna is from Warsaw; Bogdan is from Jaslo. Both are trained as landscape architects and came to the United States in the ‘90s, establishing a landscaping business in Connecticut. The family moved to Willsboro in 2007 and opened Redneck Bistro in Lake Placid in 2013.
Redneck Bistro, ¾-mile up the road towards Lake Placid from the grocery, serves American comfort food such as burgers, barbecue and chicken wings, but diners were always asking about pierogi, the addictive Polish dumpling. The Polaks didn’t think there was the market for an entire restaurant, but did recognize the need for a grocery — so they opened one.
“A restaurant is one thing, but people who want ingredients is another,” said Anna about their decision to open the shop. Her husband always loved cooking, Anna said of Bogdan’s culinary talents. The couple grew and pickled their own vegetables in Connecticut. “We had a full basement.”
“We didn’t realize how many nationalities were here. People from 25 different nationalities came in with lists.”— Anna Polak, owner of Mini Euromart
In the four months since they’ve been open, they’ve added Merguez sausage, smoked sturgeon, Russian caviar, eight different kinds of pierogi handmade by two women in Brooklyn, the Siberian dumplings pelmeni, Israeli halva from a supplier in Brooklyn, German sausages such as weisswurst and bratwurst, blood sausage, Polish sausages also made in Brooklyn, tins of brined herring, slabs German and Polish butter, packs of French pate de champagne and foie gras.
The shop fills a need for a variety of North Country folks. “Ethnic people who can’t find what they miss from home,” said Anna, going down a mental list of her customers. “Military people who were stationed in Germany. Foodies who can’t find pancetta.”
With the lists of what those customers do want growing, the Polaks would like to expand their space in the future, and are considering getting a liquor license to allow them to stock some international beer, wine and liquors. They’ve also sourced specialty items, such as cow’s tongue and sheeps’ heads for ambitious home cooks.
“We’re evolving. It depends on what customers want,” said Anna, reminding herself to provide a translation of a product that’s only labelled in Cyrillic. “It’s so much fun.”
Mini Euromart is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:30 to 6 and Sundays 11 to 3.