Peter Fuksa wants no misunderstanding about the difference between the Polish kielbasa he sells and the kind available from most other meat sellers around.
“It’s not that supermarket stuff,” he said in a thick Polish accent, standing behind the counter at on Forest Avenue.
“A customer asked once, ‘Do you have something as good as the Hillshire Farm?’” Fuksa smiled. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
Heaps of kielbasa sit in the deli’s display case, each link formed by Fuksa’s own hands. Handmade pierogies by his mother and soups by his father inhabit the hot food tray nearby. That’s about all that goes into the business – a family’s labor in the tradition of the country they left almost three decades ago.
Poland was Communist then, Fuksa said, and simple freedoms like travel were made difficult. Fuksa’s grandmother had been in the U.S. for years, so the family decided to reunite here. He was 17 when he came.
He worked in construction and then in an Italian-style deli, a position he held for 15 years. That experience made him familiar with the deli business, and he took on the role of manager when his parents invested everything they had – even their retirement savings – in the deli at 18 Forest Avenue a little more than three years ago.
The decision was the Fuksa’s response to the lack of real Polish food available to Glen Cove’s Polish community.
“People had to travel to Greenpoint before,” Fuksa said.
The deli is a labor of love for the family, he said. His parents were professionals in Poland – his mother a music teacher, his father an architect. Here, his mother hand-rolls pierogies and has fun doing it, said Fuksa.
“We make thousands around the holidays,” he said. “We stop taking orders three weeks before Easter. Last year she didn’t sleep for three days and three nights.”
The Fuksas offer 15 varieties of pierogies, the most popular being sauerkraut and mushroom, potato and onion, fresh blueberry and sugar and, of course, pork. Most of the meat products are pork, Fuksa said. He doesn’t bother to carry such traditional deli staples as roast beef. Beef goulash used to be offered but wasn’t selling. It’s pork that the Poles do best, Fuksa said.
The rest of the deli is filled with imported packaged Polish products - even the bottled water bears Polish characters on the label.
Fuksa said the labor is intensive – “the deli business is a 24-hour business” – but it is work he and his family take pride in and enjoy, as do their customers.
“When they try the Polish food, they come back,” he said.