MERIDEN — For 100 years, V. Czapiga & Son has been a staple in the city, with its traditional Polish sausage and immigrant roots. Family, friends and community leaders gathered at the store last week to help celebrate the milestone.
“(It’s) pretty amazing,” Patti Shara, current co-owner of the store said of the century mark. “...There’s a lot of love, sweat and tears that goes into this.”
The Midstate Chamber of Commerce hosted a symbolic ribbon cutting Wednesday. Czapigas offered free sandwiches — featuring their famous kielbasa — to longtime supporters, as everyone reconnected with old friends and family members.
During the event, City Councilor Cathy Battista read a proclamation from Mayor Kevin Scarpati, declaring Saturday, June 23, 2018, as V. Czapiga & Son Kielbasa Day.
“The Czapigas kept true to a family recipe and that proved to be a great success and whereas, over the past 100 years, the name V. Czapiga has grown its reputation worldwide, attracting kielbasa aficionados from all over the globe,” the proclamation read.
Founder Valentine Czapiga moved to the U.S. from Poland in 1912 and brought with him a fondness for spiced sausage. He opened his first market on Veteran Street in 1918.
His son, Walter, ran the store before handing it off to his own son Raymond Czapiga in the early 1980s. The business moved to Cooper Street in 1963, becoming a popular lunch destination as well as a meat shop.
After running it for 26 years, Raymond Czapiga said he needed a break and closed the deli in 2006 to focus on his catering business, reopening V. Czapiga & Son each Easter and Christmas to supply kielbasa to those who have included his family's sausage in their holiday dinners for generations.
In 2009, Walter Paluszewski and his aunt and uncle Diane and Joe bought the store and reopened it on a daily schedule. Now Walter Paluszewski and his wife Patti Shara run the business full time.
“Patti and Walter are really what makes this place tick… (they) are the heart of this place,” Joe Paluszewski said.
Raymond Czapiga attended the celebration with his wife Judy, while they were visiting from Florida.
He said he was glad to see his grandfather’s legacy “carrying on.”
“I don’t know if (Valentine Czapiga) had any premonition that it would last this long, but it was his life,” Raymond Czapiga said.
Midstate Chamber of Commerce President Séan Moore, who grew up in Meriden, said his family has been eating at V. Czapiga & Son for decades.
“This is a celebration of 100 years of service, which is a milestone that, quite frankly, very few businesses are able to accomplish,” Moore said.
”We’re very excited for both the Czapiga family and the Paluszewski family for carrying on 100 years of tradition.”
With a 100 years reached, Walter Paluszewski said “hopefully grandkids” will keep the store alive for 100 more.