Eugenia Polatajko tears up a little when she talks about her daughter Lidia.
“She was with me the first day I walked into my new business,” says Eugenia. That little girl is now co-owner of Rudy’s Strudel, Parma’s pierogi and paczki institution.
Eugenia, better known as Mama, and Lidia Trempe, work closely on a daily basis, running the family business Eugenia bought from the original owners in 1979. Eugenia chose to keep the business’s original name and maintained a strong relationship, even employing one of the former owners for a time.
Lidia, who joined her mother full time in 2008, says there are many best-friend days and a few typical mother-daughter days. It can be a complicated balance she says, but they have a trust that doesn’t exist in most business relationships.
Both women contribute uniquely to the success of Rudy’s Strudel. Mama’s influence weaves the family’s Polish heritage into everything they do, while Lidia brings a fresh, modern attitude to the bakery, keeping it relevant and a little irreverent. She looks for the unique marketing opportunities and collaborations that introduce Rudy’s Strudel to a new generation.
Lidia’s creativity has resulted in a wildly popular line of savory paczki, with names like the Murray Hill with Italian sausage and peppers; the LeBron James with chicken, cheddar, and broccoli; or the Breakfast of Champions with soft-boiled eggs and bacon, with a maple beer infused dough. Lidia is passionate about using locally produced ingredients and working with other start—ups and small businesses. You might find the Rudy’s team at Brick and Barrel on Mondays for Pierogi Nights or at Platform Beer for a pop-up event. The team created the 2016 Paczki Convention and has put its own spin on Fat Tuesday with a Paczki Day party in the Rudy’s Strudel store and parking lot.
“Her middle name is ‘edgy,’” says Mama of her hip, spunky daughter who still wears a brightly colored traditional babushka in the bakery. On her it looks anything but old-world. Lidia may be the new face and attitude of the business, but she freely admits that she doesn’t know everything. “We live near each other, and we work together, but I still find reasons to call her ten times a day. I used to say things like ‘I have a crush on a boy, what should I do?’ and now I say things like ‘Mama, I have this huge order, what should I do?’ She’s always there for me,” says Lidia.
There was a time when Lidia thought involvement in the family business was the last thing she wanted. Eventually, it became clear to her that Cleveland was where she wanted to be and Lidia returned home and began to put her own unique stamp on the business.
“Rudy’s is like a sibling to me,” says Lidia. Someday her children, son Luka and daughter Maya, will understand what their mother means by that. Maya is only seven, but she has expressed interest in owning Rudy’s one day. Her mother laughs and adds that she might also like to be a flight attendant that serves Rudy’s to the passengers.
Until that’s resolved, Rudy’s Strudel is in the capable hands of Mama and Lidia.
“A foot in the past and a foot in the future. That’s what Rudy’s is,” Lidia says smiling broadly and looking at her Mama.
Rudy’s Strudel is located at 5580 Ridge Rd. in Parma or visit them online at RudyStrudel.com.