Established: December 2005
Total number of lines: 1,000
Turnover: £1,500 a week
One million Polish immigrants have come to the UK in the past couple of years, and retailers and brand owners are now starting to expand into Eastern European food.
However, many independent retailers spotted the potential a while back. The Polish Deli, in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, is a prime example. The former barber shop on busy Roundstone Street was bought in 2005 by Trowbridge resident Maciey Polczynski, or Matthew as he's known. He runs the shop with co-manager Alicia Markiewicz.
“There has been a large Polish community in Trowbridge and the surrounding towns since the Second World War,” says Markiewicz.
“The town is twinned with Elblag in Poland and has strong links with it. This is the first deli and grocery owned and run by Poles in this town. Despite so many Polish people living here, nobody has done it before.”
The shop has a reputation for speciality fresh sausages and smoked mackerel, delivered from Poland once a week and placed vacuum-packed in the chilled cabinet. Other fresh foods include Polish dumplings, both sweet and savoury, biscuits, juices, bread (its biggest-selling item) and cakes delivered from a Polish baker in London every other weekday.
It also sells a host of dry and canned items including hams, pâtés and pre-prepared meals. The store also stocks Polish foods possibly less suitable for English palates, such as jarred salads and soups, Flaki - beef tripe with vegetables - and -Bigos goulash.
While most customers are Polish, 40% are English. “The English customers come here because they are curious about how certain Polish dishes are cooked and what the sausages taste like,” says Markiewicz. Most of the sausages are made mainly from pork, but the shop also sells wild boar, chicken and beef varieties.
The deli's most popular sausage with English customers is the semi-dry kabanosy - a spicy pork sausage that is long and thin with a deep red colour. Mysliwska, or hunter's sausage (pork mixed with ground juniper berries) is also popular.
Polish customers, meanwhile, prefer slaska sausage, which can be smoked or boiled, and podwawelska sausage made of minced pork and smoked garlic.
The store also acts as an “information service” for all things Polish. “People will ask all kinds of questions about Poland and not just about the products we sell,” she says.
“Some customers want to know about Polish culture and history, which is good because you almost feel like you are an ambassador for your country. It also helps to improve my level of English.”
The store may find trading harder in the future, though. Other small grocery stores in the town are now selling Polish foods while Tesco and Asda are also stocking more Polish products. “I have mixed feelings towards the competition we are facing,” says Markiewicz.
“Obviously, we want as little competition as possible, but you have to be realistic.
“Where The Polish Deli has an edge is that our offer includes fresh meat, and both Matthew and I are Polish, which gives an element of authenticity. Customers would rather come to us because we can talk about Polish food, what ingredients to use and what we sell overall in an informed way.”
Co-manager Alicia Markiewicz
Alicia Markiewicz, 29, had long harboured an ambition to be a physiotherapist. But after failing her finals in Poland, she decided to take a break to think things through. When the opportunity arose to come to the UK last year, she came to stay in Trowbridge, where she knew some fellow Poles. Following a chance meeting with Maciey Polczynski, she was offered the position of co-manager of The Polish Deli where she says she plans to stay for the forseeable future.