The Rybak family has been producing Polish delicacies for three decades, enriching Bergen County with a taste of their homeland.
The Piast Meats & Provisions butcher shop stocks fresh meats, kielbasa, pastries, soups, pierogi and a host of other Polish goodies—all made in-house. From a young age, Martin Rybak watched as his parents and their shop made a name for themselves in the local Polish community.
“I remember going to a meat market with my parents every single weekend after Polish school,” says Rybak, recalling the long line he and his parents waited on every Saturday. “At some point, they realized they could do something like this, too.”
In 1991, the first Piast Meats & Provisions shop opened in Maplewood. Though it’s no longer in operation, the family now operates two locations in Garfield, one of them nicknamed “The Castle” to go with the deli’s old-world theme.
Customers need not be in Bergen County to enjoy Piast’s offerings. The company ships all its delicacies, an effort to pair Polish people with the food they know and love.
“When you’re an ethnic business representing someone’s homeland in another country, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with that,” Rybak, now a manager, says. “We’re their connection to home. We don’t take that lightly.”
What was it like watching your parents run a butcher shop as a kid?
Martin Rybak: My dad was so hardworking. He had sheer willpower, tenacity and grit, and he could get anything done. The business is backed by years and years of hard work and sacrifice to do whatever was needed to keep the store open.
Did you spend a lot of time there as a child?
Yes, I think I was around 12 or so when it opened. After Polish school on Saturdays, I knew I would be helping out at the store for the rest of the day. I remember organizing the magazines and newspapers, holding the door for customers and I eventually began working the register when I got to be of age. After college, I went back and worked there for six years.
When did you decide to get back into the business?
In 2020 was my dad’s unfortunate passing. It was a heart attack and nobody saw it coming. We sat down with our family and said what are we going to do here? Because I had experience in the business, it made the most sense for me to be the one to help my mother continue. I felt like I was in a relay race and the family baton got handed to me. By no means could I let it drop. I quit my job immediately and came back to work.
Piast meats are all prepared in-house. Tell me more about that.
In Polish meat culture, there’s a huge tradition there, and that goes for the Slavic nations as well. There’s a really rich tradition of meats, and specifically pork. When my parents started Piast, they weren’t using fancy recipes or anything like that. They were just traditional, old-world recipes that were homemade and fresh. We were one of the first in the area to offer hot Polish food for takeout. Everything sold is homemade: Stuffed cabbages, pierogi, kielbasa, potato pancakes and all sorts of other things.
What are some of the baked goods you offer?
We offer rye bread and vitality bread, which is made with seven kinds of grains and only made on weekends. During the week, we have brick oven bread and buttermilk bread. Polish tradition is that on Sundays you come back from church and have a platter of cold meats with these rectangular cakes. We have so many different kinds (of cakes), but I would recommend the ones covered in gelatin. We also have a whole line of cookies and much more. My favorite is the coconut cream, which is two layers of a flaky cookie with coconut cream inside.
What is special for Easter?
In Poland, and possibly in other Slavic countries, there’s a tradition that you bless your Easter basket on the Saturday before Easter. You fill it up with little amounts of everything, like eggs, butter, bacon, horseradish, etc. At church, they bless the baskets, and the idea is that the following day, you will share all those things with people at your table. At Piast, we make all kinds of basket-sized items, including mini pork loins, pieces of bread, babkas and more. Mostly, for Easter, we ramp up a lot of our meat production, too.
What’s your favorite part of continuing the family tradition?
I really like when people who are unfamiliar with our culture come into our store. I love to give them samples and tell them why what we’re doing is special. We really want people to bring their friends and family and introduce them to Polish cuisine and be proud of it. It’s really important for our customers to feel proud of our stuff and we want them to feel like this is what represents their culture.