Andrey Petrenko can almost always predict what his customers will buy as they approach his shop. He may even start slicing their favorite cheese or cold cut if he sees them hurrying in, but conversations about family, friends and the community almost always overtake any rush.
Euro Market, located at 13077 Wisteria Dr., was formerly occupied by Russian Gourmet, is as much a community gathering space as a deli. The owners, Andrey and Irina Petrenko moved to the United States 11 years ago from Moscow where they ran an electronics business. Andrey says running the deli is different from selling electronics because of the friendships created from seeing the same people every week.
"You buy a computer or a TV every 10 years or so but (here) my customers come in every week, sometimes on the same day every week," he said, smiling.
Customer Natalia Gracheva has been in the U.S. for a year. She drives 15 minutes to Euro Market when she wants something "that tastes like home." The Russian salads are her favorite.
Brandishing a glossy Russian magazine she said she cannot find most deli items for sale at Euro Market anywhere else. In her opinion, the deli meats available at chain stores do not have taste, a sentiment shared by customer Haddy Jallow of Rockville.
Haddy, a native of The Gambia in West Africa lived in Europe for three years. She is looking for a sweet butter to go with her bread as finds American butter too salty. Finally, she purchases a brand she recognizes from her stay in Switzerland.
From behind a counter, overflowing with assorted chocolates and candies, Andrey smiles knowingly at his customers' remarks. He has heard similar judgment passed on chain store products and he too, finds their products bland. He addresses another customer in guttural Russian peppering the conversation with English words. An intricate dance of languages follows as the customer replies in both languages.
Like the words in their conversation, the merchandise at Euro Market is distinctly ethnic sprinkled with main street items. Exotic foods like pickled cabbage leaves, chicken headcheese and canned krupnik, a Polish soup made with barley and mushrooms are available alongside ordinary items like strawberry preserves and English teas.
The store also sells European jams, candies, pickles and seafood. Culinary and medicinal herbs are available as well as Music CD's and DVD's. Euro Market offers delivery services for grocery orders of $80 and higher. Delivery services are limited to select areas in Gaithersburg, Bethesda, Frederick, Germantown and Rockville. Contrary to their website, however, they do not offer free weekly movies.
Andrey and Irina do not plan on expanding their business because they prefer the community they have created where their customers come to shop and talk.
"It is a community space," says Andrey. "It's a small store where people come (to) talk and shop. I know everybody who comes here in the Russian community. I know their family and all members know each person here."