Sarnia doughnut and deli shop owner ready for Paczki Day

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Gus Pantazis is thinking about safety ahead of this year’s Paczki Day.

The owner of Global Donuts and Deli on Sarnia’s “Golden Mile” has been making the Polish Lenten season pastries annually for three decades and will be offering them again this Shrove Tuesday, and again on Wednesday.

It’s a scale- back Paczki event this year after expanding to a week of paczki making in 2020, before the pandemic arrived.

After the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, Pantazis closed his popular deli and donut shop for three weeks before returning to offer only drive-thru service.

Pantazis also paused what had become regular monthly paczki days, designed to hold over fans of the pastries throughout the year.

“We’ve put off making paczki for quite a while now and people keep asking,” he said. “I said, ‘what the hey. COVID-19 or not, we’ve got to roll with the punches.”

The extra work that comes with Paczki Day is generating a bit of stress for the shop’s staff, but Pantazis said, “I told them, ‘it’s only going to be for a couple of days. Just like pain, it will go away.”

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The shop will be selling paczki on Tuesday and Wednesday, and only at the drive-thru.

“My biggest concern will be traffic in the lineup,” Pantazis said. “I’m going against the rules of business telling people this, but if you’re not prepared to wait 20 minutes, maybe more – maybe up to 40 minutes at peak times – then I would suggest you come another day.”

Pantazis said he’s paying to have a city police officer on site to control traffic.

That concern for safety during paczki sales matches how the shop has been approaching the pandemic, he said.

“We’ve been very, very careful dealing with COVID,” Pantazis said. “That’s why we’re not opening our front doors, even when we were allowed to open it in a limited way.”

Pantazis said his staff feels safer and more confident with just drive-thru service.

“We feel blessed in a way because there are restaurants out there – and I’ve got friends in the business – that are hurting right now,” he said.

“We’re very grateful with the support this community has given us.”

Pantazis has owned Global Donuts since 1980, and the current London Road location since 1986.

Bob Pearson, a restaurant supply salesperson, urged him years ago to add paczki to his menu. The pastries were popular in neighbouring Michigan, where there is a large Polish population, and Pearson was sure they would also be a hit in a border community like Sarnia.

Doughnut-like paczki are packed with eggs, sugar, high-ratio shortening, and fruit and custard fillings. They’re traditionally made in Polish households in the days before Lent.

Pantazis used a recipe Pearson passed along and gave paczki a try in 1989, making 25 dozen that quickly sold out that first year. He doubled the batch for the following year’s Shrove Tuesday and sold out again, and began boosting paczki production each year to keep up with demand, at least until the pandemic hit.

Pantazis said they’re aiming to make between 1,100 and 1,200 dozen this year, which will be much less than in 2020.

But, he said, the shop will return to offering monthly paczki days again beginning on the first Tuesday in March.

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