|About Italian Centre Shop .../p1|
Franco Spinelli... A strong work ethic and community values were already well ingrained in young Frank Spinelli when he left his family home in the rolling hills and farmlands of San Pietro al Tanagro in Southern Italy and immigrated to Canada in 1951.
From the lush greenery of home, Spinelli travelled to the icy climes of the Yukon where he worked in the silver mines until a 1954 back injury, and subsequent 18-month recovery, landed him in Edmonton, Alberta. It was here the adventurous Italian would establish what has become one of the most enduring symbols of his native country's culture in western Canada.
In 1959, after years of working odd jobs and ever the entrepreneur, Frank and friend Remiro Zalunardo combined their resources to buy a tiny store on the corner of 95th Street and 108th Avenue, selling mainly Italian magazines, pop, and chocolate until a sudden surge in the local Italian population found them besieged with requests for all kinds of home-grown Italian favorites.
The following year, with a growing business and promising future, Frank married Rina Quagliarello, a hometown beauty favored by his mother. Frank and Rina wasted little time starting a family of their own. Daughter Teresa was born on Frank's birthday, October 13, in 1961; her brother Pietro followed in 1963.
It was during this period Frank led a vigorous lobby to legalize homemade wine. Working with a group of enthusiasts including Tony Falcone and Alberto Romano from Calgary, Frank and company convinced the provincial government to remove its restriction on home brewing.
The law was changed in 1964, the same year Frank assumed full ownership of the Italian Centre Shop. He would soon become the biggest supplier of Italian grapes (40,000 cases in some years) and wine making equipment in the community.
The Italian Centre Shop was much more than a grocery store. It was a gathering place for churchgoers on Sundays and for the young men who enjoyed sharing meals and card games with Frank Spinelli. The business quickly became a local landmark – but even that was just the beginning.
In recreating the "town square" ambience of their youth, Frank and Rina turned their home into a popular retreat for patio cookouts and social gatherings. Frank extended his influence into the community at large, encouraging Italian news broadcasts on local radio stations, arranging Italian performers to entertain in Edmonton, and building relationships with local politicians and the business community.
10878-95 Street 780.424.4869
Spinelli's Bar Italia
10878 95 Street
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