Copper Country grocery icon left legacy of giving

HANCOCK — Food customers across the western Upper Peninsula are mourning the passing Monday of Patrick Campioni.

Campioni died Monday at his winter home in Wildwood, Florida, at the age of 76.

Through the chain of grocery stores Campioni and his wife, Jan, built over the past four decades, Campioni leaves a legacy of generosity and charity that his sons, Ben and Joe, are carrying on.

Pat Campioni was literally born into the grocery business and grew up living above a store in west Hancock. The store had been started by his grandfather and was later run by Pat’s parents.

When Campioni entered the business in 1976, he became the third generation in the family to enter the grocery business.

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Pat’s Foods on Market Street in Hancock is the second store Pat Campioni owned, having built this one in 1985 to replace the store he purchased on Front Street in 1976.

“He had the old A&P store on Front Street, adjacent to Dave’s BP station,” said long-time employee and friend Bill Karry, manager of current Pat’s Foods store on Market Street in Hancock. “That was his first store, and he bought it from Jim Vencato in 1976.”

Campioni had the C.C. Dairy contract for approximately four years before opening his store.

“I worked with Pat on his milk route,” Karry said of Campioni’s Copper Country Dairy contract. “I worked one winter, the winter of 1974, right after I got out of school.”

Over Campioni’s career, he and wife expanded the business and opened more stores. They opened a store in Calumet, another in L’Anse, and one in Ontonagon, in addition to Festival Foods in Houghton.

The company also expanded into the hardware business.

It would be difficult to find a Copper Country charity or organization which the Campioni business has not contributed in some way or other.

“All year round, we help all the different organizations, from schools, charities, local food pantries –somebody’s always putting on a dinner, whatever,” Karry said. “The boys are always contributing. Pat always did.”

Karry, who has managed the Hancock store since 1983, said while someone in the corporation may keep records on the books, Karry doesn’t know how many thousands of dollars in food and other items are donated to organizations in the Copper Country in a year.

In 2000, Ben and Joe Capioni, who now operate the business, started a fundraising golf tournament, the Campioni Classic Charity Golf Outing. Proceeds go to local food pantries.

In addition to charity-giving, the Campioni business is among the top-five companies in the western U.P. for numbers of employees. The Hancock store employs more than 40 employees, said Karry, who did not know the total number of people Campioni Enterprises employs.