10878 - 95 Street, Edmonton
Franco (Frank) Spinelli was born in San Pietro al Tanagro, near Salerno, Campania, Italy, to a farming family; he chose to seek adventure in Canada, in 1951. A workplace accident in the Yukon Territory resulted in a broken back and over a year in traction in an Edmonton hospital. He made a complete recovery and worked as a labourer until 1959 when, with partner Remiro Zalunardo, he bought a small store on the corner of 95Street and 109 Avenue. With the huge increase in Edmonton’s Italian population, Italian goods were very much in demand and the business prospered. In 1964, Spinelli became sole proprietor and built the Italian Centre Shop at 10878 - 95 Street as well as starting a wholesale operation. The Shop became an anchor of Little Italy (others being the Santa Maria Goretti Parish, Saccomanno family grocery and Italian Bakery). Going to Mass on Sunday and then to Little Itay to buy foodstuffs, newspapers and magazines became a tradition. The appeal expanded beyond the Italian community to include all of Edmonton region and a range of ethnicities. Spinelli was also a community builder who supported a range of recreational and cultural activities including helping to found and sponsor the Ital Canadian soccer team in 1960. He provided credit to needy customers as well as cash and in-kind assistance to community organizations including those who ran festivals. He strongly supported the Italian newspaper, Il Congresso, paying advertising costs months in advance. With Lorenzo Bagnariol, Tony Falcone and Alberto Romano from Calgary, he helped to change legislation to enable individuals to make wine for their own consumption and stocked the grapes. Spinelli died of cancer in 2000 and the entrepreunerial tradition he embodied is continued by daughter Teresa, who has expanded shop locations beyond Little Italy (including one in Calgary) and now brings over 20,000 Italian items not only to the Spinelli chain of stores but to other stores throughout Alberta. Spinelli was inducted into the Junior Achievement: Alberta Business Hall of Fame in 2013 and his statue sits in the Park he contemplated throughout his working life.
Read more about the history of Edmonton's Italian community at the Edmonton City as Museum Project with Adriana A. Davies' three-part chronicle, There Were No Safety Nets.