Founder of Kowalski's Markets Killed in Float Plane Accident

Updated: 09/06/2013 6:17 PM By: Scott Theisen

Jim Kowalski, founder of Kowalski's Markets, died Thursday in an accident involving a float plane while on a fishing trip in Canada.

The Ontario Provincial Police Red Lake Branch says Kowalski was standing on one of the floats as the plane was taxiing slowly toward the shore on Dee Dee Lake, when he lost his balance and fell into the propeller.

Kowalski was airlifted to the Red Lake airport, where he died.

After a post mortem examination was completed Friday, authorities said the cause of death is not suspicious. The plane involved in the accident is said to be a Cessna 185.

Deb Kowalski, a Kowalski's Markets executive assistant, on Thursday evening said the family was in shock and they were just trying to get through the day, and declined to comment further.

A comment on the company's Facebook page says: "The Kowalski family and the entire staff would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support. This means so much to the family and everyone at Kowalski's Markets. Jim will always be remembered and his legacy will live on in his stores and in our hearts."

Mike Oase, Kowalski's nephew and the company's Vice President of Operations said Kowalski was a "great, great man" who "built a huge foundation."

Oase said he is "confident in the future (of Kowalski's Markets)" and they will "carry that on for Jim."

Kowalski is survived by his wife, their daughter, Kris, two grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

Kowalski's Markets employees declined to comment on camera but said all employees are in mourning. They also said their thoughts and prayers are with the Kowalski family.

Many customers were in shock as the news spread late Thursday afternoon and had nothing but praise and kind words when asked about Kowalski.

According to the Kowalski's website, Kowalski, 67, bought the first Kowalski's Market on Grand Avenue in St. Paul in 1983. In March of 1986, Kowalski converted a Red Owl Country Store in White Bear Lake into a Kowalski's Markets store. He and his wife, Mary Anne, are co-owners.

There are now nine Kowalski's Markets stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that employ nearly 1,200 people.

Jim and Mary Anne Kowalski have both received the highest honors in the grocery store industry - Jim as Minnesota Grocer of the Year and Mary Anne as the National Grocers Association Woman of the Year.