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Friday, January 4, 2002
Pottsville Republican/Evening Herald

Korean-food plant to open
Couple to expand operations into old Shenandoah Bi-Lo
Staff Writer

SHENANDOAH - Already the unofficial national pierogie- and kielbassi-making capital, Shenandoah may be on its way to adding Korean food items to that list.

And the method being used is reminiscent of how the now famous Mrs. T's Pierogies got its start - using homemade recipes in a small-scale kitchen setup.

A deal is in the works whereby TTT Reality, owned by Theodore F. Twardzik Sr., founder of Mrs. T's Pierogies manufacturer Ateeco Inc., will purchase the former Bi-Lo Supermarket building on East Washington Street and lease it to Lee's Oriental Gourmet Foods.

Lee's, run by William J. Mitchell Jr. and his wife, Theresa, a native of South Korea, currently employs five people in producing food items at the site of the former Elks Lodge at 214 N. Main St., which also is owned by the Twardziks.

The arrangement, according to Ateeco executive Timothy F. Twardzik, a son of the founder, is "a few weeks" from final closure.

But it will turn a building that's been vacant for two years back into productivity and add seven jobs when the expanded operation gets under way.

The Korean foodmakers, Twardzik said, use Theresa Mitchell's home recipes to produce a line of authentic Korean-style dumplings, eggrolls and dim sum - little dough dumplings, filled with vegetables, meat or shrimp and served with tea.

She is one of only a few people in the nation capable of making the products, he said.

Because the Bi-Lo site - it was originally built in the 1960s as a Genetti's Supermarket and later became an Acme - had been vacant for so long, it has fallen into disrepair and has even been considering as a demolition target.

Twardzik said extensive renovations will be needed, including roof work.

"Here's a building that was falling down at the base of our town," he said. "It certainly deserves a better fate than collapsing."

It's situated adjacent to the Pennsylvania Anthracite Miners Memorial at the entrance to Girard Park.

The venture, Twardzik continued, gives the Mitchells, who live in Ashland, "an opportunity to move ahead with their small American dream. They've been doing business out of their home and are looking to expand."

Currently, the small corporation distributes its product to metropolitan New York and Washington, D.C.

In recent weeks, however, it's begun to expand into the Chicago area, the way Twardzik's pierogie venture did in the 1990s.

Theodore Twardzik Sr. is acting as both an investor and a mentor in the Lee's operation and together, Ateeco Inc. and Lee's Oriental will forge new markets, the younger Twardzik said.

"We're sharing resources," he explained. "They (Lee's) can hit the ground a lot faster. We have contacts and share opportunities. They are a new company and are just trying to grow."

Timothy and brothers Thomas F. and Theodore Jr. took over the Ateeco operation in 1989 when their father retired.

"He said, Here's somebody who's got a great idea.' He's been retired. He hasn't been happier in a long time," Timothy said of his father, who deferred comment to his son.

"People thought I was crazy when I came back (to Shenandoah after graduating from college) to make pierogies," Twardzik said.

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