One of the major sites in Milwaukee when it comes to European immigration is not our beloved life-size dioramas in the Milwaukee Public Museum, but on the intersection of 6th and Lincoln. There is where the touch of Serbian and Polish immigrants is seen, particularly in the split-level business/upper apartment layout of most of the homes, with large glass panes allowing views inside.

“That’s where I grew up, man. My whole life was lived on the south side, 9th and Arthur,” Adam Bartoszek tells me from behind the granite countertop at Wioletta’s Polish Market (3955 S. Howell Ave.) The market is named after his wife, who is a chef specializing in Polish cuisine. The couple has been married more than 20 years, and Wioletta herself is a Polish immigrant, having lived in Milwaukee for 26 years.

Old-world service meets new-school grocery at Wioletta’s, which offers many European delicacies, but focuses on goods from Adam and Wioletta’s respective homelands. The deli case is something to be admired. Sausages, ham, cheese, bacon, and other cold cuts sit behind the glass, stretching along the length of the store. The attentive service is done by Wioletta or the couple’s daughter.

“This is a family business, run by me and my wife and two kids,” Adam says.

The store boasts a wide array of Polish delicacies, such as sauerkraut, pickles, pierogies, and readymade soups. There’s a burning question in my mind upon seeing the Polish sauerkraut: Is there a difference between German and Polish? “Yeah, German tends to be a little bland. WE season ours way differently,” Adam says, peering through the top of his glasses, a smile on his face.

The market is 2,800 square feet, but Adam says it’s not enough, and he has plans to remodel. “We have enough stuff to fill five stores this size,” he says. “Hopefully we can get a bigger space soon enough, but I don’t want to move too far from where we are now. Milwaukee has always been a hub of Polish culture and we want to show that.”

Bakery is something to enjoy as well at the market. The rustic rolls always seem to be warm, and they make great vehicles for the sausage and sauerkraut. There is a vast selection of Polish vodkas and liquors as well, but the wine selection is minimal. “Polish wine isn’t very common. Just not made a lot,” Adam says.

For the longest time, there was only one Polish market in Milwaukee, also on the city’s south side. Now, Wioletta’s expands on this specific brand of grocery and has a real passion for showcasing Polish culture. Aside from edible items, the store also sells clothing and other various curios that boast slogans expressing Polish pride.

Polish Kielbasa and griller sausages are the ones to buy at Wioletta’s—but then again, I have yet to buy one of everything in the store. It’s a task I will undertake happily. For journalism.

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About The Author

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Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer from the south side of Milwaukee. He only writes until he can land a role as the mechanic friend of the handsome lead in a telenovela. His favorite movie is Repo Man.