The bakery and deli at Kramarczuk’s Sausage Co. opened at 7 a.m. — an hour earlier than usual — to handle the Fat Tuesday demand for paczki, but Jim Bogusz was standing outside the doors at 6:37 a.m.
It was still dark on Hennepin Avenue in north Minneapolis then, but Bogusz (pronounced “Boh – goosh”) had come all the way across the Twin Cities from the eastern St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, about 20 miles, and he didn’t want to be late to get his bismarck-like fried pastry stuffed with fruit filling. He was picking up paczki for himself, his family and his neighbors.
“You never know, with traffic,” he said.
With a knit cap pulled over his ears, he paced in front of the iconic sausage shop to ward off the cold. It was 3 degrees on this day before Lent would begin.
In the Polish tradition, the sweet, sugar-coated paczki were a way to use up the household supply of flour, sugar and lard, which wouldn’t be used during the Lenten time of fasting.
“I’ve got all things Polish in my blood,” Bogusz said as he talked about the day-before-Ash Wednesday tradition. “It gives more meaning to this time of year. I like bringing more meaning to my kids. I want them to know where they came from,” he said.
By 7:02 a.m. the parking lot at Kramarczuk’s was full. Boxes of paczki filled tables set up in one part of the shop’s adjoining restaurant for the line-up of customers who had pre-ordered.
Dozens upon dozens of empty paczki boxes lined the shelves of the bakery and deli, and store staff scrambled to fill the boxes from baker’s racks of raspberry- and apricot-filled paczki for both orders and for the walk-in customers who were lined up as well to get some paczki before they were sold out. The place was buzzing.
Martin Lukaszewski got a parking place right in front of Kramarczuk’s. Proudly acknowledging his 100 percent Polish heritage, he said he had driven in from Blaine in the northern suburbs to keep up the tradition he grew up with in South Bend, Ind. “I used to make paczki all through the year,” Lukaszewski said. “My dad’s sister and her husband owned a bakery.”
He was picking up two dozen paczki as part of a fundraiser to combat Parkinson’s Disease, which he has been diagnosed with, but admitted there was a gastronomic reason he was at Kramarczuk’s so early on a frigid February morning.
“I’ve always got to have my paczki,” Lukaszewski said, and once inside, he stood in front of the counter with a big smile on his face.