European Imports ~ 50 Years!!!

Andrew&Tessa wedding parents

This month, October 2014,  John and Jacqui Eisen are celebrating a family milestone: 50 YEARS!  No, not 50 years of marriage but 50 years since the family first entered into the European import trade.  Although they started their business, The European Pantry, back in 1997, the roots of their business had their genesis in 1964 during a time of tragedy and hardship for John’s parents, John A. W. & Trudy Eisen.


When John A. W. Eisen arrived in Canada in 1949, the world looked full of opportunities to his teenaged eyes.  Although that did not mean the opportunity to finish high school, after 5 years of hard work he was able to enroll as a mature student in university with the dream of helping people.  The early 1960’s found John A. W. in Renfrew, Ontario embarking on a career as a social worker to support his wife Trudy and young son, John Jr.   But his dream turned into a nightmare when he began to have difficulty walking and climbing stairs.  Already during his student years he had often felt fatigued but had blamed that on long hours of work and study.  Now he could no longer deny that something was terribly wrong.  Eventually he would be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  As a social worker it had been his job to assist disabled workers.  Now, no longer able to work himself and having to rely on a wheelchair for mobility, he and Trudy had to find a new way to support themselves.  This is how The Wooden Shoe was born in 1964 and they found themselves selling Dutch imports to the immigrant community in the Ottawa valley

.JawEisen1984wooden shoe 50 (1)

Although he didn’t realize it, John had been training for retail business for many years.  As a young lad he had raised rabbits for sale.  He had also shown early entrepreneurial aptitude during the war years earning money by standing in ration queues for people who didn’t have the time.  Even though the money he earned usually ended up helping his widowed mother put food on the table, he learned an early lesson in purchasing and providing services to consumers: focus on what people need. John and Trudy always kept that in mind at The Wooden Shoe.  They also had a reputation for giving back to their community. Over the years, John  contributed to many publications, such as To All Our Children,  that paid tribute to the Dutch immigrant experience in Canada.  Having lost the use of his hands, he did this by typing on one key at a time with a head device that Trudy had crafted for him.  His children and grandchildren were recipients of many letters that recorded his experiences as a child during the troubled war years and subsequent challenging ones of immigration.


Like his father, their son, John Jr., graduated with a BA in sociology and worked as a social worker but growing up in the family business left a nagging desire to run his own business.  As his parents planned their retirement in 1997, John and his wife, Jacqui began a similar venture in Welland, Ontario. Today that business, The European Pantry, has expanded well beyond serving the Dutch community.  They offer a broad line of European imports and their selection of both domestic and imported cheeses boasts over 50 choices. The commitment to meeting people’s needs and giving back to the community that John Jr. saw modeled by his parents, however, remains strong to this day.

John Sr. passed away in 2001 and Trudy in 2008.  Their memory continues to be honoured by their children who value all they learned from these remarkable individuals. John and Trudy carried by their strong faith in a God who sustains no matter what life throws at you, turned adversity into something positive.


Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations starting September 27 will continue throughout October with draws for items like a Polish Ham for Thanksgiving, a $50 gift basket and a cheese platter.  Each Saturday, a 6 foot cheese board of samples will  tempt you to find your favourite. Learn about pairing cheeses with wines and beer. Each week a different group of cheeses will be show cased.  On September 27, eleven British cheeses demonstrated the variety available from the fair isles.  On October 4, experience the cheese culture of France and Quebec. This will be followed with German and Swiss cheeses on Thanksgiving weekend.  The month will be rounded out by Scandinavian specialties on the 18th and finally a special Dutch day on the 25th will honour the memory of John A.W. and Trudy first foray into European imports all those years ago.


John A.W. & Trudy Eisen enjoying their retirement in 1999

So the wedding was celebrated….

tessa and andrew wedding cakeAnyone who has visited our store over the last month will know that we have been excitedly anticipating the wedding of our youngest daughter.  Besides the important role of mother of the bride, I was also in charge of the faux wedding cake.  Since the bride walked down the aisle in Converse runners and the groom waited for her in North Star high tops, I crafted a special “bride & groom” for the top of the cake.

As I created the cake over the last few weeks, my creative mind has been busy thinking of special ways that a bride and groom can be showcased. I would love to create a cubist “cake” with multiple platforms for artifacts of their relationship.  For cheese lovers I am just waiting to be asked to create an edible cheese cake garnished with appropriate fruits and nuts…and, of course, ribbons, pearls or other embellishments.  Although the traditional cake hasn’t made as many appearances in the past years, specialized wedding cakes are a wonderful way to celebrate the joining of two unique lives.

tessa and andrew wedding shoes

New Cheeses coming in!


Can you identify these cheeses? These were last Saturday’s samples.  Come in Saturday and test your cheese knowledge. Can you tell the difference between domestic and imported cheeses?

We will also have two types of cheese quiches for you to try.  The recipes will be on line next week.

New Cheeses:  I am expecting a delivery tomorrow of three new cheeses…Lancashire from England, and Champignon Brie & Camenbert from Germany.

Check out this Apple Tart Recipe that I made two weeks ago.

Got your goat!


No kidding…we had your goat last Saturday!  We spread goat cheese on french stick slices, then topped that with fig jam and slivers of dried smoked sausage.  To compliment that we served a tossed salad with goat cheese and drizzled with a tarragon vinaigrette. (Recipe) You also could have sampled several goat cheddars…by far the favourite sample was the goat cheddar with caramelized onion…I sold out and will have to order more of that type! To finish off you could of enjoyed a slice of Dutch appel taart.  Hmmm….what shall we surprise you with next Saturday?


Our First Cheese Sampling Event

IMG_1308September 14, 2013 we began our anniversary celebrations by hosting a blue cheese event.  Guests were able to enjoy both Cambozola, a mild blue cream from Germany, and Stilton the famous blue from Great Britain.

IMG_1305Cambozola has a smooth spreadable texture and just a gentle touch of blue cheese. It pairs well with savoury or sweet. We served the Cambozola on Paris Toasts with a dab of Bonne Maman apricot or blackberry jam on top.

IMG_1303Stilton is the only name protected cheese in England.  Good quality Stilton should be crumbly but moist so we were very pleased when our Stilton passed the test. The Stilton was complimented wonderfully with Maille Hollandaise sauce and steamed spinach on Swedish Krisprolls. Click here for instructions: Stilton and Spinach Bruschetta

Our next event is Saturday, September 21, 2013.  We invite you to sample a number of goat cheeses from Norway and France as well as several artisan Ontario cheeses.  You will be surprised by the range of flavours and enjoy our serving suggestions.