THUNDER BAY – The city might not be the perogy-manufacturing capital of Canada, but Eva Gulbinowicz hopes it’s on its way.
The spunky entrepreneur is a month into her latest venture, Aladdin’s Feast, pumping out about 10,000 tasty potato-dough morsels a day.
From the traditional potato and cheddar cheese to the gourmet mushroom pelmeni to the dessert-like apple and cinnamon, Gulbinowicz’s goal is to sell her perogies from one end of Canada to the other, boasting all-natural ingredients she thinks will set her apart from all the rest.
In Thunder Bay, she’s one of a kind.
Born in Poland, she moved to Canada in 1982, a civil engineering degree in hand, she drifted in and out of classrooms and careers, not unhappy with her life, but wanting something more.
In August she found it, renting a small space on Squier Street, traveling to her homeland to purchase a specialized perogy-making machine and co-opting her son Arthur, a business graduate from Lakehead University, to market her wares.
It only made sense to start in Thunder Bay, where her product can be found in all six Shoppers Drug Mart locations and in several local restaurants.
“Thunder Bay is a perogy town. Everybody loves perogies. I thought that we have plenty of handmade perogies, but you have to remember the ladies who make perogies are 70 or 80 years old. The younger generation, they’re not going to following the same route,” she said.
She started small, with a $25,000 investment to buy the perogy maker, taking common European recipes and tweaking them for the Canadian palette.
“The difference between the taste is a little bit more sugar and a little less salt,” she said. “Some love low salt, some people love pepper. So we’re trying to incorporate the ingredients so we know people like it.”
Though her childhood dream wasn’t to become a Canadian perogy queen, it’s an idea that held her fancy for years. She’s not sure how far it will take her.
“I want to be big. Not too big, but big enough to employ between 20 and 40 people. I want to be seen in Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay doesn’t have a food processing business. So I want to grow into other foods, like crepes, in the future,” Eva said.
For now the company is only selling in bulk to stores and restaurants.
Arthur Gulbinowicz said he’s using Aladdin’s diversity to help break into the market in Thunder Bay.
“Everybody is usually used to the regular and the sauerkraut perogies. But we wanted to introduce different varieties because that’s part of the Polish culture,” he said, “but also blueberry and strawberry and all that.”
For now it’s a four-person operation, with two workers feeding the $25,000 perogy-making machine, generally producing two or three of the eight types of pergoies they make each day. They’re then frozen and bagged on site, about two dozen per bag, depending on the flavor.
“In Europe we have 10 or 15 different kinds, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring some (new ones) here, because of the fact we have lots of European people here,” Eva said.
As technology catches up, she hopes to expand, find a larger location and take on the perogy-loving world.
Her ultimate goal, however, is a little close to home.
“I have been thinking about a restaurant that serves perogies. You can come to the restaurant and have fresh perogies. And on the other side you can purchase frozen perogies. And we can deliver them the same way. That’s my concept in the future if this grows,” she said.
It worked for pizza, why not perogies?
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