Ukrainian Couple’s Paradise Market Savors the Tastes of Their Homeland

Perusing the aisles of Maple Grove Paradise Market, you may com across items uncommon to American cuisine.

Igor Kedyk is a bear of a man, tall and broad and with large hands that look accustomed to hard work. His wife, Lyubov, is the quieter and more diminutive half of the couple. They met as children in the first grade, says Igor. Lyubov assents with a smile. Her name, she tells me, means “love” in Ukrainian.

When Lyubov’s winning a green card in 1997 allowed them (along with their 1-year-old daughter, Tatania) to move to the U.S. from their western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankovsk, it was only six years since Ukraine had become independent of the USSR. Their country of origin was reeling in the wake of the USSR’s dissolution, Igor says. “We came here to find a better life, and we did find a better life. We are working hard, but life is better,” he says.

When pressed for details about what surprised them most about the U.S., they start a list: how people live, the houses, the highways, the cars. The look they share when asked why they wanted to come here is something akin to: Are you stupid? “This country is the best place to live in the world,” Igor says.

Upon arrival in this country, Igor and Lyubov lived for a month in Chicago, where they have some relatives, but soon started a trucking business in Iowa. When, by 2005, that business did not flourish as they’d hoped, they moved to Minnesota. “On our second try, we decided to open a store,” Igor says. Neither he nor Lyubov grew up in grocery-store running families, he says. “It’s hard to say why, but we felt we could run this business.”
Starting that very year, they opened a store in Burnsville. Two years later, they expanded with a bakery. In 2009, they opened a second grocery store in Hopkins, and in 2013, they established a plant in Shakopee to manufacture their famous sausages and to smoke their meats and fish. Area residents also enjoy the benefits of a local source of eastern European foods, since Paradise Market, a name all of their stores share, opened on 63rd Avenue N. in 2014. A bakery in the same strip mall daily supplies the store with fresh bread.

Lyubov and Igor spend their long working days moving from Burnsville to Maple Grove and managing all their facilities in between. Their newest project is an expansion and remodel of their Burnsville store. “We are doubling our square footage,” Igor says. “We are building a kitchen to prepare food that people can pick up to go.” Borscht is almost certain to grace the take-out menu, as well as other soups and pierogis.

Their customers are mostly Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Moldavian, Bella Russian and Bulgarian. “All these people came as immigrants,” Igor says. “They want food from home.” The Kedyks have strategically placed their stores, the couple says, to serve the eastern European diaspora—Shakopee, for example, has one of the largest Russian populations in all of Minnesota. However, their daughter, says Lyubov, has somewhat different tastes in food. Now 21 and attending Iowa State University, “She wants to eat sushi and pizza, not stuff from my store,” says Igor with a laugh.

Eating in Paradise (Market)

What kind of food might you find at the Maple Grove Paradise Market? Perusing the store’s neatly organized aisles, you’ll come across items uncommon to American cuisine: mashed beets, spicy zucchini spread and canned mackerel, for example. There is also, however, a lovely selection of pasta, and should you wander over to the frozen food and dairy cases, a few more familiar items present themselves: pierogis, lamb dumplings and kefir. And in a spectacular bakery case, you’ll find some of the prettiest profiteroles and napoleons you’ve ever seen.

But these are not the foods for which the stores are best known, says Igor. The most popular items he sells are his smoked meats and fish and his sourdough rye breads. He can wax poetic about these breads. “We bake the original Ukrainian/Russian rye bread,” he says. “You can’t find them anywhere else. What I bake, no one else in the Twin Cities bakes. We supply them to [the St. Paul restaurant] Moscow on the Hill.” The breads are dark, heavy, dense and absolutely delicious. “We came from a poor country,” says Igor. “People there eat a lot of bread.”

Meat specialties include sausages, salamis, smoked meats and fish. “We smoke them with traditional recipes,” Igor says of the complicated processes carried out at the Shakopee location. Over 60 different smoked items are available, including wieners, hot dogs, pork belly, salmon, trout, mackerel, sausages, salami and bacon. After perusing photos and product descriptions on their website, you’ll want to pay a visit to Paradise.