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Saving Fiercely & Working Proudly: The History of Janina's Part Eight

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The First Sales

Eventually, sales did pick up. A few people, here and there, bought rings and chains. Andrzej didn’t always know if they really wanted what he had to offer or if they were simply in the Co-op already and choosing the most convenient option for a gift. A few times, Andrzej wondered if the customers simply wanted to help this Polish jeweller, who had only a few chains and rings here and there to offer.

Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter. The customers left smiling and, once they were out of the door, Andrzej was already reinvesting their purchase. Each time they sold a chain, he’d order two more. When they sold an engagement ring, he ordered two new styles. He wanted options for his customers. And, he wanted to fill out the display cases. He wanted that beautiful store.

And so, every dollar the store made went right back into the store. Neither he nor Janina took a salary from the store (and wouldn’t until Janina’s fifth anniversary). Instead, they relied on their day jobs for income. Everything else was an investment in the future of the store, an investment dedicated to bringing his dream into a reality. 


Fier: Working Proudly

Despite Janina’s being Andrzej’s dream, he still cared deeply about his work at Safeway. When he’d started working at Safeway, he was only working two days a week: Friday and Saturday. After a while, his manager had approached him:

“Do you want to be a janitor?”

And Andrzej, despite not understanding what the word meant, nodded. He was always willing to pick up more work to help his family. “Yes, yes.”

“Okay, then come here at 6 am on Tuesday.”

Andrzej left work that day confused. He repeated the word over and over in his head. Janitor, janitor. It didn’t sound like any words that he recognized. As he walked home, he thought of what it might mean. He’d been asked to show up early, so maybe he would end up working in produce, with all the veggies. He smiled to himself. Yeah, that sounded interesting. He could definitely do that.

But it didn’t really sound like a word for fruits and vegetables. It didn’t sound close to carrots, or apples, or anything like that. Maybe that wasn’t it after all.

He thought harder. Janitor. Jan-i-tor. It was a difficult word. It sounded tough, strong. Maybe he’d be working in the meat department. Maybe this was a word for the person who cut the meat. That made sense with how the word sounded, but he was sure there was a different word for that person.

When he arrived home, he pulled out his Polish-English dictionary, determined to find out what he would be doing at 6 am on Tuesday.

“Janitor,” he said to himself. “Okay, so starts with a G.” He flipped to the “G” section. Was it spelt Ge? Or Gi? Maybe Ga? He looked under all three but couldn’t find it.

“Maybe Gu or Go?” He muttered, flipping more pages. He couldn’t find it under either.

He flipped back to the start of the G section. Okay. Not Gi, Ge, Ga, Gu, or Go. Maybe it was an oddly spelt word! He’d have to look at the entire G section. That wasn’t a problem. He could do that.

After flipping through all the G words, he still couldn’t find this word. He closed the dictionary and thought. If it wasn’t in his dictionary, then what did that mean? Was it a specialized job? It must not be a common job if it wasn’t in the dictionary.

He started feeling a bit uneasy. What exactly had he agreed to do?

With nowhere else to turn to find out the meaning of the word, ‘janitor,’ Andrzej was left to wait until 6 am on Tuesday morning. When he arrived at Safeway, he was ushered into the very back of the store by the manager who pulled a large broom off of a hook and handed it to him. The man gestured in a sweeping motion and Andrzej laughed.

“Oh, yes,” he said aloud, more to himself than anyone else. “Yes, janitor.”

Now, he understood.

Eventually, he began working more than just three days a week at Safeway and continued to do so after opening Janina’s. Andrzej worked the night shift at Safeway from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am. Then, he’d go home and get some sleep. They quickly realized they needed to hire a bit of help, and so the first-ever employee of Janina’s worked part-time. She opened the store at 9:00 am and stuck around until Andrzej came in at noon. Together, worked the lunch hour and then Andrzej worked on his own until closing time at 6:00 pm. He would go home, eat and rest, and head back into Safeway at 11:00 pm.

It became a routine. A necessity to ensure that he could support both his budding business and his growing family. In fact, he’d continue to work two jobs until 1991, where Janina’s had grown large enough to support itself – and Andrzej’s family.

Ready for part nine? Read it now.

This post is part of a ten-part series on the history of Janina’s. To learn more about our local roots – and to stay up-to-date on events and promotions – make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram