A walk through Slavic Village

Slowly, but surely a new face of Slavic Village is born. All you have to do is look around. So many restored buildings, with the best example being the Polish American Cultural Center. It is so nice to look at it without shame, and hear someone say: “Unbelievable, such a nice place in the Warsaw district?” However, more beautiful does not necessarily mean safer, but …that will change too, just as the surroundings have changed. Not long ago an acquaintance told me that he is buying a house. His answer to the typical question “where?” was, “You will laugh, but in the Warsaw district.” Maybe this sounds strange, but “He’s not stupid – I thought – he has no children, the prices are lower here than anywhere else, taxes too, and the place is becoming more attractive, and everything is so close.” One can say that there are only positives here.

Walking through Slavic Village, I questioned few Poles I met along the way. People are saying different things. Some say, “This is forcing a cultural place where there is no culture and where it is not needed. Just look who lives here, you can’t go outside at night. We just come here for sausage.” Others looking more positively at life add, “Stores, it’s good that they are being formed. A person always longs for that polish bread and ‘paczki’. Maybe five more should open, then the prices would be more reasonable.” I agree that it is great that new stores are springing up, the old and natural law of business says that competition improves quality and lowers prices.

In the US metropolitan areas, the tendency is for ethnic groups, unless they are very strong, to move from their places of origin, as people move away to better neighborhoods. But it is good to have “your own” place. And let’s be honest, Slavic Village will always be our Polish district. More reason to be glad that it’s face is changing. It is especially pleasant in the area of St. Stanislaus church; you can see a beautiful garden with a fountain there. The renovated rectory also catches your eye. And just by walking in front of the church towards East 65th Street, you walk into a café. A real one, where everyone who never goes to bars, can drink coffee, eat pastries, and spend time with friends in a nice and friendly atmosphere.  I spoke with the owner of “The Fishbowl – A Bohemian Café”, who stated that the idea for this place was born out of the needs of the Slavic Village residents. The regular customers are people who live in the neighborhood. They needed a place the sit comfortably and relax, someplace other than in front of their TV at home. The owner of the Fishbowl Café stated that, “We are all working together to increase the quality of life in our neighborhood.”

Walking ahead, we turn from East 65th onto Fleet and we find a Polish store, which we all have been visiting for years. With pleasure, we eat the polish bread from Mr. Kaziu. “Europe Deli”, which needs no advertising, offers a wide selection of Polish products. It also carries bakery goods – sweet rolls and ‘rogale’ – what we Poles loves the most, and what a modern woman does not have time to make like grandma used to with yeast dough.

Almost right across the street from Europa Deli, a new delicatessen store came to existence called “Seven Roses”. The owner of this store had a great idea, as this is not an average delicatessen store with sausage and pickles. The store is large and aesthetically furnished, with a small Polish style café in the back. You can have coffee and eat a delicious piece of tort (I’ve tried it, I’m not recommending it blindly), and if someone wants to and knows how, they can play the piano. It entices with its grand looks and adds character to the place. The store is very spacious and well stocked; it’s nice to say that this is a new Polish business. The wide assortment of goods will meet the needs of even the hardest to please customers. Walking further on Fleet, you can visit another Polish store “T&T Market”, which also offers a large selection of Polish products.

One of my interviewees stated that, “Walking through Slavic Village, one can tell that someone has a plan, but it is not clear what it is.” I have to tell you that this actually known and it is not a secret. A plan has been developed to restore these buildings. This program is a result of the cooperation between the City of Cleveland, Slavic Village Development, and Pulaski Franciscan CDC, who own the buildings. The hopes are not to only restore, but also to open new businesses. The Polish store “Seven Roses” is proof that for investors with ideas there is a place, but more importantly, a need to enrich the Polish district by offering high quality services.

I send best wishes for many successes to Polish businesses, those that exist, those that just came into existence, and those who are planned for the future. I can even tell you what Poles want, and where they would like to go… To a true, classy, Polish style restaurant. This would be a great investment and an opportunity to show what you can do, for someone who knows how to run a business and who has the money.

Agata Foremska
Translated by Monika Glazar

Forum, 11/2004