Zup’s celebrates legacy

Ribbon cutting at new store marks next step in 106-year history

by Tom Coombe
The late John Zupancich planted a seed 106 years ago with the opening of the first Zup’s Food Market.
A century-plus later, that seed is still bearing fruit and evolving with the times.
That was evident Thursday in Ely, when Zup’s Food Market formally celebrated the opening of its new store with a ribbon cutting ceremony and other grand opening events.
Company officials, representatives of the store’s grocery suppliers, dignitaries, employees and multiple generations of Zupancich family members were on hand for the event.
Family was one of the themes of the celebration as Ely store manager Jim Zupancich Jr. acknowledged the company’s roots.
“Our great grandfather John started his business in 1916,” said Zupancich. “He had seven sons, Edward, Ludwig, John, Albert, Joe, Leonard, Bill and one daughter auntie Angela who I know are all looking down on us feeling proud of what we have done here in Ely.”
Corporation president Ed Zupancich also cited the company’s beginnings and said “today marks the continuation of the legacy of Zup’s corporation.
He added “this store is a testament of unending support of the community and an unwavering commitment of the corporation.”
It was in late-2020 that Zup’s announced the purchase of Ely Northland Market and plans to close both that store and its market on the 300 block of East Sheridan Street and open a new Zup’s in the 32,000 square foot Shopko building on Ely’s east end.
“This event took us a long time to get here,” said Jim Zupancich. “It took two years to put this together and we’re so happy everything came true.”
The new store includes more than 5,000 new grocery items, according to Jim Zupancich, and includes both a liquor store and a pharmacy. That played a role in the decision to move east.
“We decided we could put all the money in the world in (the old store) and it’s still not big enough for us,” said Jim Zupancich.
Government entities, including both the city of Ely and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, played a role in assisting with the development, and leaders of both entities were on hand for the event.
“We like to help communities that like to help themselves,” said IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips. “And Ely is one of those communities.”
The IRRRB aided in infrastructure improvements that were key to the development.
The city of Ely partnered with the IRRRB and mayor Roger Skraba said the new store will serve as an anchor that will help keep business in the community.
“We need businesses like this in Ely,” said Skraba. “Hopefully they’ll set a stage for a car dealership which we’d like to see back in Ely. When you have an anchor like this holding businesses in your community it’s a big deal.”
Skraba told an audience of about 150 people that he worked in construction near Cook when the Zup’s store there was destroyed by fire.
While that store was closed “the whole community suffered,” Skraba said.
“I thank the Zupancich family for investing in Ely, in their future,” he added.
Before the ribbon cutting, Jim Zupancich thanked dozens of people, ranging from suppliers and financiers to family members and the store’s workforce.
“Without you, we wouldn’t have a store in Ely,” Zupancich said to the staff.
He also outlined the challenges the corporation overcame to complete the project, including supply-chain shortages that held up key items including shelving and other obstacles, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those hurdles were overcome and the store opened in late-2021.
“We hope we’re here for another 106 years,” said Jim Zupancich.