A sweetened and condensed version of one incredible history

It was boom time in America when a feisty Italian immigrant named Rosa Brochi opened her first boarding house to the lonely sailors in the Great Lakes Port of Duluth, MN. The year was 1869 and it was here where Rosa’s lifelong tradition of customer satisfaction began.

“Grandma,” as she became affectionately known to the young women in her tutelage, took very special care of her patrons, making sure they were always comfortable and satisfied. Her reputation became legendary and word of her shrewd business sense and humanitarian works spread like wildfire. Soon other boarding houses were opened – in the great north woods, along the banks of the Mississippi, the Red River Valley, and throughout this great land. Wherever people sought comfort, Grandma brought solace. Then in 1944, Grandma answered the call of her countrymen by returning to Europe to assist in the war effort. She was never heard from again.

Two generations later, Rosa’s grandsons, Mickey and Andy, adopted her commitment to customer satisfaction. In 1976 they opened Grandma’s Saloon & Grill in the very same building where Rosa operated her first boarding house. Now the offerings may not be the same but with unspeakably good food, exceptional service, and lively atmosphere, patrons can still enjoy life’s more indulgent pleasures. The success of this first venture, fueled by the legendary works of their grandmother, prompted the boys to revisit many of Rosa’s business locations to reclaim her heritage. The extent of her colorful past is still being uncovered as they travel the country in search of their ancestry.

Grandma Brochi was always willing to bend over backwards for the customer and the restaurants that share her name share her philosophy. Grandma’s Saloon & Grill is a place where people enjoy themselves (sometimes a little more than they think they deserve), and where no one goes home hungry. So sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself – Grandma would have insisted.

Time for the real story.

Since the beginning, Grandma Rosa Brochi has been thematriarch icon of our company. But to understand the real Grandma, we need to go back and introduce you to the 2 gentlemen behind this incredibly enigmatic woman.

In 1975, Gerald Ford was president, Jaws was in theaters, and Bill Gates founded Microsoft. This is when 2 young, energetic, resourceful “20 somethings” were trying to figure out a goal in life… a pretty strong one, let alone a universal motivator, to have fun, but more importantly, impress and meet girls. Yep, that's the basic plan that founded Grandma’s.

This is probably not the high-brow business plan that you may have been expecting here. Unlike today, there was no statistical analysis or marketing surveys to help with this plan. In fact, it fit on the back of a cocktail napkin. One would even go for so far to say that these young men were unknowingly going to achieve more than their goal but also meet their future wives.

One of the 20 somethings, is a very sophisticated, well-traveled “foodie” by the name of Michael Paulucci. A Duluthian, known to everyone as Mick. Mick is the son and heir apparent of a frozen food genius and legendary entrepreneur by the name of Jeno F Paulucci. At a very young age, Mick had the privilege to travel the world with his father enabling him with plenty of ideas and resources at disposal.

The other 20 something is a hard-working, athletically inclined (jock) law student from Superior Wisconsin. His passion, and one of many side jobs, is collecting and restoring antiques. One of the side jobs was also working for the Paulucci family. There he meets and becomes fast friends with Mick. His name is Andy Borg Jr.

Back to the plan, the one on the cocktail napkin. Well, as you can see here, they did it. Back in 1976, the scrappy duo created the legend of Grandma’s with a rundown bar, between a bridge and a junk yard. It was just the beginning - restaurants were built, marathons were started, and it seemed adventures were always on the horizon. But those two 20 somethings, Mick and Andy were also able to carve out a living for themselves and many others, grow in purpose and service, developing multi-concept restaurants, family fun centers, and help build the Canal Park everyone knows today.

In 2014 Andy bought out his partner and became the sole proprietor of Grandmas. Today Grandmas Restaurant Company stands for so much more than it did in those singular early years. From that amazing start we have seen over 7,000 employees, get their first job or start a career.

And just for the record both Mick and Andy did meet their wives at Grandmas, both serving as each other's best man. In fact, Andy has served as Mick’s best man a number of times. But those are tales best left for another time.

Saturday, August 8th, 2020 we were greatly saddened by the passing of Michael Jeno Paulucci at the age of 71. Born to parents Jeno F. Paulucci and Lois M. Paulucci (Trepanier) on October 26th, 1948, in Duluth, Minnesota. Known to many as Mick, he was the founder of Grandma’s Restaurant Company, with the first restaurant, Grandmas Saloon & Deli opening in Canal Park on February 8th, 1976, which altered both the character of Canal Park and the city. 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.

Over the years we have accumulated a lot more than memories. Many of those memories are represented here in these photographs. Sadly, we cannot remember where a lot them came from or who took them. Some of these moments in time were captured by Sam Alvar, Jeff Frey, The Duluth News Tribune, and many more were shared with us by employees. If you wish to receive credit, share ones you have, or have other ideas, please let us know. [email protected]