Mariola’s Cafe: Bakery & Deli, which recently opened at 464 Main St., has sweet cookies and pastries, buttery croissants, chewy bagels, elaborately decorated cakes and warm doughy bread with hearty crusts to go with a menu of breakfast and deli sandwiches, flavored coffees and tea.
Mariola Boruch-Karwacki, who owns the bakery, shopped at antique stores for the furniture, which includes wooden tables and chairs and a comfortable couch. Behind the counter, loaves of fresh baked breads fill a French chocolate cabinet from the 19th Century.
Rather than being commercial, Boruch-Karwacki said bakeries should conjure up warm, family memories of desserts grandma made.
“When were you happy? As kids,” she said. “This is a place where people can reflect, relax and socialize. It’s family. Everybody’s welcome. It’s not only a business. I put my heart in here. I want to make everybody happy.”
Mariola’s Cafe, which also sells Polish cuisines and specialty items, is open Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Boruch-Karwacki is a Polish immigrant from the small village of Dabrowa Bialostocka and her husband, Jan Karwacki grew up in the village of Dzierżoniów.
A mural on the far wall of Mariola’s Cafe by artist Rafal Pisarczyk captures the city square of Wroclaw in Southern Poland and Dzierżoniów. It was a surprise for Jan.
“I was told there was going to be a mural, but I didn’t know it was going to be my hometown in Poland,” Jan said, adding the village was once part of Germany, before the border shifted after World War II.
Boruch-Karwacki runs the bakery with the help of her husband and their three children Julia, 19, Emily 16, and Gabriel 14.
From gardening to baking
Boruch-Karwacki studied environmental engineering in Poland and had applied to go to school to be a landscape architect before visiting family and friends in the United States over two decades ago — and she never moved back.
While living in Connecticut, Boruch-Karwacki met her future husband at one of the many events she attended with family and friends.
“One Polish guy had a bakery in Fairfield called Ambrosia,” she recalled. “I learned to make and decorate cakes.”
Boruch-Karwacki learned the business under Andrew Duz.
It was an education on making breads and desserts from scratch, managing a store, planning, and hiring and training new staff. She worked at several bakeries on a part-time basis when her children were young, including a short stint at a supermarket.
Five years ago, she bought Billy’s Bakery, 1885 Black Rock Turnpike, in Fairfield. Then she recently saw the opportunity to open the first bakery under her own name at 464 Main St. in Monroe, next to Verizon.
“She was hesitant to name it after herself,” Julia said of her mother. “I said, ‘mom, you have to. It just makes sense after all the years of hard work and being a Polish immigrant. This is your legacy. You need to make it your own.’ I’m very proud.”
Tom Golfis is the general manager of Mariola’s Cafe.
“She used to work for me. She was one of my cake decorators and now we reversed roles,” Golfis said of Boruch-Karwacki. “She’s incredible. She’s like a runaway train — a super powered locomotive. She never stops. And she’s very talented with her decorating skills, from birthday cakes to wedding cakes. She does it all.”
Joeanna Smith of Easton was among the customers shopping for baked goods Monday morning.
“I used to go to Billy’s Bakery all the time and I love everything there — and this is so much closer,” she said, “and because I’m Polish, I want to support somebody who’s Polish.”
Smith told Boruch-Karwacki she loves her rye bread and croissants.
A grand opening
On Monday morning, First Selectman Ken Kellogg, Community and Economic Development Director William Holsworth and members of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and Monroe Economic Development Commission (EDC) held a grand opening celebration for Mariola’s Cafe.
Boruch-Karwacki attended with her family and cut the ribbon with Kellogg during a ceremony.
“On behalf of the town of Monroe, we are so happy to have you here,” Kellogg said. “Thank you for choosing Monroe to open your beautiful bakery and deli. Your place looks wonderful and we wish you many, many years of success.”
The first selectman told Boruch-Karwacki to let town officials know if there is ever anything they can do to help her business, adding she can always reach out to Holsworth and members of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and EDC.
“Congratulations and welcome,” he said.
In her 25 years of experience, Boruch-Karwacki said she has seen old bakeries close one-by-one. She encourages residents to support small businesses.
“It’s so sad when something special and unique closes,” she said. “Commercial places don’t have the old school feel. An old style bakery keeps the recipes for the old products.”
To learn more about Mariola’s Cafe, visit its Instagram page. Its Facebook page is coming soon.