New Delis DO open!
Case in point: "Felix" European Meat and Deli in Maple, northwest of Toronto.
This leads me to an interesting subject. I am talking about the fate of our German and other European "Meat & Delicatessen" stores. Many of them have closed their doors. Why? It is not only because the supermarkets now carry a lot of the items that you could only find in those little delis, and that it was easier and made a lot of sense to pick them up when you were shopping there anyway.
But not everyone did. Many of the European immigrants and their descendants, still made an extra trip to the deli in their neighbourhood because they felt that quality and service better fit their taste and usual way if shopping. Unless the supermarket had a German butcher on staff, it was difficult, to explain the proper cut for "Roulades" for example, to the people behind the meat counter. The "Wieners" you picked up at the supermarket, didn’t taste like the wieners from your deli. The variety and quality of Salamis – and the fact that you could taste a small slice at the deli, before you committed yourself to the purchase – was gone since most of the meat was only available in vacuum packages. That, and many more reasons, is why people still shop at the deli, and don’t mind driving great distances to shop there.
Then why did so many close their doors? Most of them had been in business since the immigration-wave in the fifties and sixties. But they are now about 40 years older and wanted to retire. Sometimes, unless they can keep it in the family, like Lein’s Delicatessen, they sell to new immigrants – often from Eastern Europe – who cannot provide the same atmosphere, ambiance and service that shoppers were used to. So "old clients" stay away, shop at another deli or the supermarkets. And it is difficult to get them back. Many shops close their doors after a relatively short time.
Demographics also change, witness the "German Corner at Markham and Eglinton, Knob Hill Plaza etc. that used to be conclaves of German immigrant activities, for example.
However, when Jim and Inge Mosolanczki – from "Ruppelt’s Meat and Delicatessen" in Scarborough, near the old "German Corner"- wanted to retire, and - after exhaustive efforts - had already contemplated closing the store permanently, they fortunately found a buyer that still believed in the traditional ways of running a deli.
Jack Bojarski not only took over and continued running the store the way the customers liked it, but he looked further ahead and realized that there is a niche for this type of operation in other parts of Ontario where a great deal of Europeans – especially Germans or their descendants - and those of Polish heritage – live, that have a need for a quality deli close to home.
He found an area that is almost ideal for a delicatessen store that could cater to them. On the premise "If you build it they will come" he recently opened a new store at the corner of Major Mackenzie Drive and Keele Street, in Maple, northwest of the GTA.
"FELIX European Meat and Deli" – 10019 Keele Street – is located at the northeast corner in a very picturesque setting with plenty of parking. Huge windows provide daylight to this very clean store, enabling customer to see the colour of their meat selection as it really is. Eventually signs for the featured products will be in German, Polish and English.
Imports from all over Europe are available to the customers. He is still fine-tuning the variety of these products to meet the customer-demands - since he wants to cater to the two ethnic groups, plus Canadians - but the basics are available the same way and to the same standards of quality as they are available at the old Ruppelt’s on Markham Road. (Yes, you can get your fresh "Steak Tatare" in Maple too!)
This is a fact that Jack is acutely aware of, and is continuously striving to improve by looking for customer feedback and input to be up to date with his customer’s wishes and requirements and the actual quality butchering is still done at the Scarborough location.
So, if you live in the Richmond Hill, Maple area – or vicinity – take a trip there some day and check it out. It may just be what you have been looking for. You can also pick up your copy of the ECHO GERMANICA there.
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