There’s a certain magic that happens when people are reunited with foods that remind them of their roots. It’s something that Andrea Macikova and Vlad Forgac witness regularly at YourOh! Deli, the authentic European delicatessen they run in Langley, B.C.
Forgac recalls one of these special moments last summer, when a customer spotted a European chocolate bar she hadn’t seen since her childhood.
“She stopped in her tracks,” Forgac says. “She slowly walked over and began welling up, saying, ‘I used to eat these when I was a little girl.’”
“She picked one up and held it with such admiration that I was moved,” he says. “That’s when I knew a European deli was much more than just a little food store.”
Serving specialty goods from throughout the 27 European Union (EU) state members has become more than a business for the pair; it’s a passion.
Macikova hails from Vranov Nad Topl’ou in Eastern Slovakia, while Forgac is originally from Bratislava, the country’s capital. The pair launched YourOh! Deli in December 2018. (The name is meant to sound like “Euro.”) The 900-square-foot shop quickly became a neighbourhood draw with products from all over Europe – represented on a map that adorns one shop wall.
Operating in a multicultural region like B.C.‘s Lower Mainland, a 45-minute drive from Vancouver, YourOh! Deli has a diverse clientele. Many shoppers have roots in Eastern Europe, including Romania, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. For this reason, the deli stocks a variety of food products that allow customers to connect with their culture, while helping others discover the true taste of Europe for the first time. Think Pawelek chocolate bars from Poland; Erfrischungsstäbchen lemon-orange chocolates from Germany; Burek cheese pies, popular in Croatia and Slovenia; Slovakian Oštiepok smoked sheep cheese; or Hungarian peppers stuffed with sauerkraut.
As was the case for so many businesses, COVID-19 introduced new challenges for YourOh! Deli. Macikova and Forgac initially curtailed their hours, developed an online ordering platform and offered private shopping to ensure their clientele could continue to access the high-quality European goods they treasured during the pandemic’s darkest hours.
What the couple found, however, was that the overwhelming majority of customers still wanted to shop in person, to look at labels and designations and read about the products – despite limitations and lineups presented by physical distancing orders. Currently, up to three people are permitted in the store at a time, and it’s not uncommon to see customers waiting patiently outside for their turn. Macikova and Forgac attribute this to carrying authentic European goods and working hard to continually diversify their EU offerings to ensure variety for their clientele.
“The most important element in solidifying our client base has been adapting to our customers,” Forgac says. “We’re constantly branching out, contacting new suppliers and importers and bakeries and meat producers.”
Luckily, The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), has opened even more opportunities for businesses like YourOh!, making storied European products readily available to Canadian food retailers and consumers alike.
“We have a huge number of customers from Eastern Europe who are extremely passionate about the foods they grew up with,” he says. “So, for them to come in and find items they are familiar with is huge. And for them to know that we will do what we can to seek out and bring in items we don’t have in stock is forging the whole ‘neighbourhood European deli’ mission we set out initially.”
More and more, people want to know where their food comes from. With traditional and authentic European foods, customers should look for EU Geographical Indications. The distinctive red and yellow stamp identifies that the ingredients, production and preparation of a product are all from or took place in a specific geographical area. The blue and yellow stamp is used to identify the products in which a particular quality of production is attributed to its geographic origin. These labels ensure that what customers are buying is authentic and of the highest quality standards.
For Macikova and Forgac, the foods they carry act as a bridge between people and places. By stocking the best of Europe, they aim to help satisfy consumers’ appetites for food that offers a real experience, combined with high safety standards – that feeds their souls as much as their stomachs.
Interested in learning more about European foods? Please visit: www.morethanfood.ca
Delegation of the European Union to Canada: https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/canada_en
EU Chamber of Commerce in Canada: https://euccan.com/
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.