MERIDEN — The Filipek family sold its longtime business, Filipek’s Kielbasa, earlier this year after more than a century of operation.
New owner Cindy Kenealy and her husband, David Martorelli, family friends of the Filipeks, took over the Elm Street sausage shop and recently remodeled the entire interior of the business to make it look “more modern.”
“They seem to be really happy with it,” Kenealy said about customers’ reaction to the changes. “I think it has helped a lot. It was so old and very drab and dreary before, and it’s very updated now, a lot brighter.”
Martorelli said the shop was closed for about a month earlier this fall for the remodeling and re-opened before Thanksgiving, in time for the business to fulfill holiday orders of smoked kielbasa and sausage.
The business, a city staple for over a century, has continued as usual since the sale, Martorelli said.
“The kielbasa's the same. Everything’s really the same,” he said. “The only difference is the look. It’s a new look, same place.”
Martorelli said his wife runs the shop and he only helps out. The couple, who live in Clinton, have a connection with the Filipeks beyond friendship. Kenealy’s son married a member of the Filipek family and had two children.
“I have grandkids that are Filipeks,” Martorelli said.
The business was founded in 1905 by the late Stanley Filipek and stayed in the Filipek family for four generations. Stanley Filipek, who learned the trade of sausage making in his native Poland, started the business with a store on Veteran Street and sold his meat products wholesale throughout the state.
Filipek was one of the first Poles to settle in Meriden, where he prospered and became one of the first dozen residents to own an automobile.
One of his four sons, Thaddeus, later took over the business and ran it for a while with his brothers Phillip and Winton, according to archived Record-Journal stories. But when World War II intervened, Thaddeus went to work for New Departure and his brothers both entered military service, and there was no one to carry on the business, so it was discontinued. In the 1950s, the youngest of Stanley Filipek’s nine children, Richard, resumed the business with the part-time help of his brothers, principally Thaddeus Filipek.
Richard “Honey” Filipek opened a shop in 1956 on land that now holds Community Towers. Downtown redevelopment prompted him to move to Elm Street in the early 1980s, according to archived stories.
Richard Filipek’s son, Ricky, took over the family business after his father died in 2004. The business was most recently operated by Rick Filipek’s daughter, Lori, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
‘I guess I just like pigs’
The business operates out of a small, unassuming house on Elm Street, tucked between quiet one-family homes. For years, Filipek’s was known, along with V. Czapiga & Son on Cooper Street and Noack's Meat Products on East Main Street, for having the best-smoked meats in the city. V. Czapiga & Son celebrated its 100-year anniversary this past week and Noack’s was founded in 1966.
Even though the shop now has a modern look, Martorelli said he and his wife are considering plans to preserve its history by hanging old photos and relics, including some of Richard Filipek’s collection of thousands of replica pigs — made of plastic, porcelain, and glass — he accumulated over several decades and displayed throughout the store and in the window of his Elm Street market.
“I guess I just like pigs,” Richard Filipek told the Record-Journal for a story about the collection in 1977. As a man who made a living off of pigs, Richard Filipek not only admired the animal for its pork but its “cleanliness and intelligence” too.
“They are basically a clean animal, despite their reputation,” Richard Filipek said in 1977. “If they wallow in mud, it’s to cool off, since they have no sweat glands.”
One of the pictures hanging in the shop shows a map of the United States pierced with dozens of pushpins to mark where customers have had kielbasa shipped – from New England to Hawaii. The map is accompanied by a hand-written list of more than a dozen international countries the business has shipped its smoked meats to, including Japan and, of course, Poland. Hung next to the map is a plaque of a 2004 Record-Journal news article about the passing of Richard Filipek.
“This is almost like something out of the past,” Rick Filipek is quoted as saying in the story 15 years ago. “There’s not a lot of us small markets left.”