SHOREWOOD — Here is how to take a trip to Russia without ever leaving Wisconsin. All you have to do is go to Russian Food and Gift in Shorewood and you will be transported into a whole new world.
You won't find brands like Cheerios or Pillsbury. You won't find much English on the packaging either. Instead, you will find foods from Eastern European and Central Asian countries.
“From Russia, from Ukraine, from Belarus, from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan. You name it, usually we have it," said Nikolay Rogoeskiy, the owner of Russian Food and Gifts on 3557 N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood.
It's a grocery store but not a Metro Market or Pick N' Save. It's food Nikolay remembers eating while growing up in Ukraine. It's why he is more than happy to help those who come in learn what all the food inside his store is. He wants to share his culture with others.
He even has his own miniature museum towards the back of the store. Russian nesting dolls fill a glass cabinet from the floor to the ceiling.
"I can tell them a little more about it. The history of how they make it. How long it takes to make it," he said.
On top of the shelf are two balalaikas, which look like three-string guitars with a triangular body.
He opened this shop in 2007, about five years after coming to the United States as a Jewish refugee from Ukraine.
“Literally American Dream," he said. "I was just 19 years old, and I was just crazy about starting a new life.”
Starting from scratch, he built a new life in Milwaukee.
“Sometimes I had three jobs a day," he said.
Now he owns his own business.
“Something that I couldn’t do back in my country," he said.
It’s a dream he is fulfilling, little by little. And even the pandemic can't stop his pursuit of happiness.