Paul Skoczylas grew up around kielbasa. By age 8, he was lending a hand at Central Falls Provision, his family’s Polish sausage shop, and through high school and college he was working there full time during the summers. Photos from the period show him in front of the oven, holding a rack of sausages, wearing a T-shirt with “kielbasa kid” stenciled across the chest.
Just before graduating from the University of Rhode Island, a business professor offered to help Skoczylas get a job at chemical giant DuPont, but the family business was in his blood.
He took one week off after graduation in 1980 and then returned to Central Falls Provision, where he worked alongside his parents and took over as owner of the business a decade later.
“I wanted to help out my parents,” Skoczylas said, his father a few feet away at the shop. “This is one of those places where people come in and have memories of the place from way back. I have those memories also.”
Central Falls Provision has been making kielbasa in Rhode Island’s smallest city since 1923, when Skoczylas’ grandfather, Vincent, opened the shop on the banks of the Blackstone River.
Vincent Skoczylas emigrated to the United States from Poland and first settled in New Britain, Conn, where he worked for a meat processor and eventually saved enough money to move his family to Central Falls.
Through the years, Central Falls Provision has remained remarkably unchanged, even as the community around it has gone through significant transformation and turmoil.
The company utilizes traditional sausage-making methods, recipes and even some of the same machines used in the 1950s.
For generations, the menu has featured two staples: kielbasa and baked loaf, a spiced mix of pork and veal, sliced and served hot or as a cold cut, sometimes referred to as the “Polish steak.”
Only now, after a recession and the rise of the Internet, has Skoczylas started adding innovation to tradition.
He’s started making Italian sausage, bratwurst, a 7-inch hotdog and a spicy kielbasa that appeals to today’s heat-seeking palates.
“In the old days we used to be so busy we refused business, but a few years ago it started to get slow and we had to change our ways and communicate with our customers,” Skoczylas said. “We still have all the old customers and we are getting a lot of new ones. That’s why we make the spicy kielbasa and we have branched out into new items.”