When Celina Mrozek moved to Lemont 10 years ago, she planned to return to her beloved church in Chicago every Sunday and keep close ties to the neighborhood of her youth. But the minute she walked in the door at , she knew she had found her true home.
"It was Easter and we were standing in the doorway,” she said. “I saw the top of the church and never went back [to my old parish].”
In fact, Mrozek has had several old friends move to Lemont since then.
“It’s like home,” she said. “I wouldn’t move.”
That’s good news for the many loyal Lemont customers she has cultivated since she opened , 814 State St., in 2006. As the store’s popularity grew and customers clamored for more home-cooked meals and grocery items—and better parking—Mrozek and her husband, Walter, decided to expand.
In 2009, they opened in Derby Plaza at 14167 McCarthy Road. The new location offers an extensive array of homemade meals, soups and desserts, as well as a deli and grocery.
Mrozek prefers natural, farm-fresh foods and uses as many natural ingredients as possible in the foods prepared on site.
“Our chicken soup is from chicken—we don’t use canned stock,” she said.
Many other items are prepared from scratch, including alfredo sauce, cheesecake and 23 kinds of salads. Mrozek says the most popular homemade items include soups, pork chops and cabbage.
In addition to the array of Polish and American items, the store also offers some popular Lithuanian products such as kugelis (potato pudding) and Lithuanian sausage. For the upcoming holiday season, Celina’s also offers natural, farm-raised turkeys.
Though she’s passionate about quality foods, Mrozek hadn’t planned to be an entrepreneur. She worked part-time at Bobak’s in Chicago beginning in her teens, and eventually became manager of the Archer location. When the owner decided to sell the store, Mrozek overcame her initial trepidation and bought it herself.
“I was nervous then, and I am nervous every time I open a store,” she said. “Anytime you do something new, you never know how it will turn out.”
So far, it has turned out well for her entire family. Mrozek’s husband runs the Archer store on a day-to-day basis, and two of her four sons work in the family business as well. The other two sons are students who help out as needed.
Mrozek says she enjoys staying in touch with the Polish community. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 13 from a small farming community in south Poland with her parents and four brothers.
Though the majority of items in the stores are decidedly Polish, Mrozek has customers of all ethnicities and supports many community groups throughout Lemont. She encourages customers who aren’t familiar with the Polish foods—or who just want to try something new—to explore the store’s offerings and ask for free samples of the deli and hot food items.
Mrozek said she is grateful for all of the store’s patrons and the Lemont community.
“I want to thank my customers for their support,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”