Lead: Grocery scion drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins

Sub-title: A couple of days bagging groceries was enough for Angelo Esposito. He decided he preferred hockey.

 

As a youngster Angelo Esposito occasionally bagged groceries and stocked the shelves at his family’s chain of Esposito grocery outlets. The TMR native quickly decided that the grocery trade, in which his father had worked for most of his life, was not his first choice and he decided to focus on hockey instead.

 

Recently that decision began to pay big dividends.  In late June, Angelo Esposito, the oldest son of Quebec independent grocer John Esposito, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the NHL entry draft. This fall, he will enter the training camp of the National Hockey League’s hottest team and will skate alongside stars such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and Jordan Staal.

 

 “It’s a dream come true for him,” says father John Esposito. “Naturally, like every Montreal kid, he wouldn’t have minded playing for the Canadiens, but Pittsburgh is really the ideal fit for his offensive skills.”

 

John Esposito runs the three-store Esposito grocery chain, all of which are in the 15-25,000 square feet range, along with his brother and father, who founded the business in the 1960s. Like many independents, John Esposito stays close to his customers, chatting with them constantly to keep up to date with changing trends. The firm is particularly strong in its fresh offerings. Store butchers, cut their own meat and John Esposito visits the market personally each morning at sunup to select the best merchandise he can find, to stock the shelves later that day.

 

“It’s a seven-day a week business. It’s not like a factory. You can’t just put out a sign that says “back next week,”” jokes Esposito, who in addition to Angelo who is 18, also has another son who is currently playing hockey at Notre Dame and a 21 daughter who attends Concordia University.

 

As for the life of a grocer hockey dad? “I am a bit fortunate,” admits Esposito. “Although this business consists of seven-day weeks, as one of the owners I do get a bit of flexibility in getting time off when Angelo has a game, because I can make up the hours later in the week.”

 

One game that Esposito hopes to attend is when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Montreal for an exhibition game in August. As a rookie it is by no means certain that Angelo Esposito will make the Penguins during his first year, but according to his father, Angelo has been working hard, doing off-season conditioning. “He’d better keep in shape,” his father joked. “If not, there’s always a place for him here behind the counter.”

 

Peter Diekmeyer (peter@peterdiekmeyer.com) is Canadian Grocer’s Quebec correspondent.

 

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