The founder of the iconic Grandma's Restaurant in Duluth has died.
Michael "Mick" Paulucci, 71, was fighting COVID-19 with underlying health conditions when he died Saturday, the company said.
Paulucci, son of Duluth frozen-food giant Jeno Paulucci, founded the first Grandma's Restaurant location in 1976 with Andy Borg. The duo bought the former restaurant located there, called Sand Bar, in order to use its liquor license. At the time, many discouraged them from buying the place because of its warehouse district location, the Lake Superior Magazine reported in 2016.
They embraced the industrial setting, incorporating it into the restaurant's theme. Eventually, the restaurant's success "altered both the character of Canal Park and the city," the company wrote in a Facebook post Monday.
"He will be remembered for all the good times (there are so many stories) and what he bought into the lives of us, his family, and those around him," the post continued.
They founded the popular Grandma's Marathon within the next year. In the '80s and '90s, the company added locations in Minneapolis, Virginia, Plymouth and Bloomington, Minnesota — as well as in North and South Carolina.
Today, the company still owns the Virginia restaurant and runs two locations in Duluth — its original Canal Park joint and in Duluth Miller Hill Mall.
The Grandma's Restaurants company also operates Bellisio's Italian restaurant, the Sports Garden, Little Angie's Cantina & Grill and the indoor game center Adventure Zone in Canal Park.
Paulucci sold his holdings to the company in 2014 and resided in Nevada at the time of his death.
In late July, Grandma's Restaurants announced it was closing its Canal Park Grandma's Saloon & Grill for two weeks as a precautionary measure after an employee tested positive. This is not connected to Paulucci's illness, the company said.
The Duluth News Tribune published a full obituary Tuesday with more details of Paulucci's life and his impact in Duluth.