It looks like an ordinary convenience store attached to an ordinary gas station. But go inside and you’re in Europe.
Aram Hirapetyan and his father George opened European Market in April. To find it, head south on Route 521 through Ballantyne. Half a mile after you cross the line into South Carolina, look to your left for an Exxon gas station labeled Cobblestone Creek Market.
“We’re originally from Armenia and also lived in Russia seven, eight years,” Aram explains. Foods from that area “are our core,” he says, along with items from Germany, Poland, Hungary and other parts of eastern Europe.
There’s herring and sardines. Ukrainian fruit preserves and frozen Siberian dumplings. Dark chocolate with a picture of the Kremlin, lager beer with a picture of a Russian bar-maid.
Sausages are a particular specialty. You’ll find wursts ready to grill, salami and bologna ready to slice, soft braunschweiger ready to spread on toast. I counted 47 varieties before I lost track, munching on a sample salami slice.
The refrigerated case holds cabbage rolls and a variety of the dumplings called pierogi, ready for you to take home to heat and eat. All are handmade by Natalia Sokil, a Ukrainian immigrant in Spartanburg, S.C., and delivered to this store each Friday morning.
Atop the deli counter, reach into a basket of Sokil’s homemade bolochki, a Ukrainian cousin of the Polish pastry kolachi. Sokil prepares yeast dough, a bit sweet, and rolls it around a filling of poppyseeds in honey. Slice the pastry to expose the pinwheel swirl inside.
Sokil is not just a cook and baker but an entrepreneur. She started the first European Market in Chattanooga in 1999. It became an improbable success. Eastern European immigrants had seldom ventured into the South during the big immigration wave of the 1880s to 1920s, preferring less-impoverished parts of the U.S.
But today there are enough Europeans — and others with cosmopolitan tastes — that Sokil boasts five shops of her own in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Chattanooga vicinity, as well as the franchised store here.
European Market / Cobble Creek Market
Address: 9792 Charlotte Highway (SC 521), Indian Land, S.C.
Hours: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. (Deli staff will custom-slice salami and bologna from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.)