CHICOPEE — When Lisa Jablonski walked into the first floor of the Polish Home she felt like she was home.
Exactly 409 days later, in early September, she opened Elixir, a new neighborhood pub that has a Polish flair — catering to the organization upstairs as well as her heritage and the city’s large Polish community.
Jablonski said she always had a business sense and has worked in restaurants in her younger days. She also tended bar at the Polish Home for different events. When the long-term restaurant The Courtyard closed, she decided to take a leap and open a neighborhood bar there.
She signed the lease in July 2021 and then went through the long process of securing the licenses needed and renovating the place to make it her own. Friends questioned her idea of trying to open a pub during the COVID-19 pandemic but Jablonski said she just felt she could make it as long as she went into the enterprise with a positive attitude.
“I’m Polish myself and this is the heritage of Chicopee,” she said. “We have Polish beers, Polish cocktails and we are working with a food truck that sells Polish food.”
So far, her Tatanka, a classic Polish drink with a Polish flavored vodka, apple juice and lime juice is the second-most popular mixed cocktail ordered. She also plans to have a Polish brandy on the shelves soon.
Using apple juice and apple cider as mixers is unusual here but more common in Poland, she said.
She is hoping to get a food truck for some weekend nights, but in the meantime Jablonski has been experimenting with offering pierogis and kielbasa as appetizers, and both have been a hit. Instead of making the pierogis, she has been buying homemade ones from St. Stanislaus Church who has volunteers make them as a fundraiser to support the school. The kielbasa is from a local company.
She said pierogis are time-consuming to make and even her own family bought them, but she finds that people really like them and they aren’t offered in that many places. In addition, Jablonski said she likes the idea of supporting the community and a local school.
Even the name Elixir has some Chicopee ties. When Jablonski was trying to decide what to call her pub she googled dates connected to the city’s settlement and found the word ‘elixir’ was popularized in the mid 1600s. It seemed to fit since it is now used to define a potion or anything thought capable of remedying all ills.
Elixer is a family affair. Jablonski said she isn’t giving up her day job as a branch manager at Key Bank in Westfield. Instead, her daughter Kaelyn Jablonski manages the bar. She also has five other employees.
“I’d rather work for my mom than anyone else. We have a good system,” Kaelyn Jablonski said.
Even Jablonski’s younger son Kaleb Rodriguez, who is 8, has been involved, especially when she was cleaning, painting and getting the bar ready, he would help out where he could. He has also taken an active interest in Elixer, asking his mother or sister if the business had a good day when they come home.
“It’s good for him to see this. I tell him we are putting in so many hours to build something for us,” Lisa Jablonski said.
As a teenager, Lisa Jablonski said she worked for her mother, who was a manager at FL Roberts. She said she learned a lot from her and also developed a strong work ethic because her mother wasn’t going to allow her to slack off.
Jablonski said she is already attracting business from neighboring employees of the U.S. Post Office and the Polish Credit Union who sometimes stop by after work to play pool or arcade bowling and socialize.
She is also offering live music with local bands on Thursdays and Saturdays and just lined up a DJ for karaoke on Fridays after multiple customers told her they would be interested in that.
A recent comedy show was also a hit so Jablonski said she is hoping to hold a comedy night at least once a month.
“I’m trying to listen to customers and offering them what they want,” she said.