BY JOHN E. USALIS
Pierogies bring smiles to people’s faces, and on National Pierogy Day, there are even more smiles than usual.
National Pierogy Day is marked on Oct. 8 to celebrate those Eastern European delicacies that many people have enjoyed all their lives. Ateeco Inc., maker of Mrs. T’s Pierogies in Shenandoah, held two flag raisings on Thursday, one at the plant parking lot with the employees and the other at Shenandoah Borough Hall. This was the 12th year that the official NPD flag was raised.
The day marks the first commercial sale of Mrs. T’s Pierogies on Oct. 8, 1952, to the Capitol Food Store in Shenandoah by owner Theodore “Ted” Twardzik Sr., launching the the start of successful business that has sold billions and billions of the pasta pockets in the United States and other countries in the past 68 years.
COVID-19 restrictions kept the celebration a bit more low-key this year at a public level. Ateeco had a special offer for everyone by offering a free coupon for a box of a dozen Mrs. T’s Pierogies. There were 10,000 coupons available at a special website beginning at midnight. All coupons were gone at 9:52 a.m.
At the pierogy plant, everyone was greeted by Vice President/Human Resources Christopher S. Dende, who explained the importance of pierogies in one’s life. Company President Thomas F. Twardzik, the son of Twardzik Sr., was on hand. He is the grandson of Mary Twardzik, the real “Mrs. T,” whose pierogy recipe her son used for the company’s pasta pockets.
“Each and every day we have more and more people eating at home at the kitchen table, with moms and dads working from home, some people who are unemployed, kids who are going to school virtually, all being together and having a comfort food with the people they love all together,” Dende said.
Dende spoke of the many frontline workers at hospitals and nursing homes, and the military troops serving in the country and worldwide, thanking them for their service.
“We thank all of you and I give you all a virtual hug,” Dende said.
Before the events, Twardzik and Dende provided an update on how the pandemic has caused some things to change at the production plant.
“COVID-19 has certainly changed our lives and our business here at Mrs. T’s Pierogies,” Twardzik said. “We are beyond grateful to have such an extraordinary team working tirelessly on the front lines and in their homes, continuing to keep our pierogies available across the country. We are proud to play a part in helping to feed America. At Mrs. T’s, we’ve always been a hardworking family, and I am immensely thankful to our team, partners and to all the pierogy lovers, new and old.”
Dende said sales have been very good and the demand has not slowed down for pierogies.
“The increase in demand for our pierogies has continued throughout the year,” Dende said. “To help support this increased consumer demand, we have been consistently running overtime since the last (Republican Herald) article ran in early April. We continue to see high sales numbers as so many people continue to eat at home and restaurants are at limited capacity.”
Twardzik added, “As the company recognizes these above and beyond efforts, Mrs. T’s has been recognizing and celebrating their team through an internal SMILES Committee that focuses on building morale and promoting togetherness. In addition to celebrating events like Ted Twardzik Sr. Day and National Pierogy Day, one initiative of this committee that we’ve really enjoyed has been to provide all three shifts with catered lunches and food trucks from local businesses during overtime weeks.”
Operations are back to running in full swing. To meet demand, the company has continued to hire new employees, adding close to 30 workers, with plans to add more. There are 240 employees working for Ateeco.
“Those who have the ability to perform most of their work from home have been encouraged to do so as much as they can,” Dende said. “We coordinate office schedules, so we don’t overcrowd when people do need to come in.”