FOX 9 News has confirmed Jim Kowalski, founder of Kowalski's Markets, has died in an accident involving a small plane in Canada on Thursday morning.
Friday morning, Ontario Provincial Police confirmed Kowalski had been standing on the plane's floats as the it approached the shoreline. When the plane hit shore, he lost his balance and fell into the propeller, suffering a fatal injury.
An autopsy was scheduled for Friday morning at the Lake of the Woods Hospital in Kenora, Ontario.
Kowalski was on a fishing trip with a friend when the accident occurred.
JIM KOWALSKI'S LEGACY
Kowalski was still very much involved in the day-to-day operation of the nine-store grocery business, which was recognized as the Family Business of the Year in 2011 by the University of St. Thomas's Opus College of Business.
Whether he was making appeals to potential customers on TV or accepting an award, Kowalski always tried to stay ahead of the curve.
Kowalski and his wife brought an under-performing Red Owl store on Grand Avenue in 1983. By focusing on service and local ingredients, he grew the business into a chain of upscale supermarkets scattered across the metro.
Local musician Tim Mahoney took to Twitter to air his grief, saying, "Very, very sad day. My uncle, Jim Kowalski, has died in a tragic accident. A true icon and awesome man, words cannot express."
Even competitors, like Lund's and Byerly's CEO Tres Lund, expressed sadness at the news.
"Jim was a great businessman and merchant, and he is going to be missed by everyone who was fortunate to know him," Lund said.
Long-time customers were also grieved at the loss, saying Kowalski definitely made an impact on the nearby community and felt like part of their family.