Jim Kowalski, the 67-year-old Minnesota grocery store chain owner named Minnesota’s Grocer of the Year, died on Thursday from injuries he sustained in a float plane accident in Canada.
According to a copy of the Ontario Provincial Police report obtained by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Kowalski was standing outside of the craft when he was tragically injured. The report states, “When the aircraft connected with the shore, the male lost his balance and fell into the propeller, causing significant injury. The male was transported by plane to the Red Lake airport, where he died as a result of his injuries.”
Kowalski and his wife, Mary Anne, bought a chain of stores he had been working for – Red Owl – and transformed them into the Minnesota empire, Kowalski’s Markets, in 1983. In addition to his award for Minnesota’s Grocer of the Year, Jim Kowalski’s wife was named the National Grocers Association Woman of the Year, as well.
This week was Kowalski’s Markets’ 30th anniversary; according to company staff, they had been preparing for store’s celebrations’ in the days leading up to Kowalski’s death; the Minnesota entrepreneur was on a fishing excursion with a friend to Ontario’s Dee Dee Lake when he died.
Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak said, “Jim left a lasting legacy in St. Paul and across the metro area. His passing is tragic and my heart goes out to his family.”
The grocery chain’s Twitter account was updated to pay tribute to the stores’ owner:
The Kowalski family & staff thanks everyone for their kindness. The memory of Jim & his legacy will live on in his stores & in our hearts.
— Kowalski's Markets (@kowalskismarket) September 6, 2013
Image courtesy Kowalski’s Markets via Facebook.