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Kowalski's founder dead at age 67

Jim Kowalski, the founder of a grocery chain headquartered in Woodbury, has died.

The 67-year-old North Oaks resident died Thursday in an incident involving a floater plane during a fishing trip in Ontario, Canada, said family spokeswoman Deb Kowalski.

The family issued a statement on Friday through Twitter reading “The Kowalski family & staff thanks everyone for their kindness. The memory of Jim & his legacy will live on in his stores & in our hearts.”

The plane’s pilot, a friend of Jim Kowalski, was left “devastated,” Deb Kowalski said.

Jim Kowalski, along with his wife Mary Anne, established their first Kowalski’s Market – a former Red Owl in White Bear Lake – in 1986, with a goal of “adding value to the shopping experience” as they expanded, according to the company’s website.

The couple saw that vision through with the construction of the Woodbury location, opened in August 2000. In a promotional video made for Kowalski’s after the business won the 2011 Opus College of Business Family Business of the Year Award, Jim Kowalski described the Tuscan themes he and Mary Anne harnessed in creating the Woodbury location.

“We wanted it to feel as totally different from a normal grocery store as we could,” he said in the video. “It was an old Tuscan design – when we were in Italy we tried to copy some of what it felt to go to some of these small villages.”

The Kowalski’s brand has grown into nine stores around the metro.

Services for Jim Kowalski have not yet been set, Deb Kowalski said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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