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Rocco Cingari, longtime owner and operator of ShopRite stores in Connecticut and a former board member of Wakefern, dies at 89

Rocco (Rocky) Cingari, the longtime president and chief executive officer of Grade A Market Inc., which owns 11 ShopRite stores in Connecticut, died June 3, with his family at his side. He was 89 and a lifelong resident of Stamford, CT.

Mr. Cingari served as president and CEO of Grade A Market for nearly 40 years until January, when his nephew, Tom Cingari Sr., succeeded him as president and CEO of the family company. Mr. Cingari continued to work alongside his brother Sam Cingari, three nephews and two great-nephews, Chip, Joe, Tom Sr., Dominick and Tom Jr., respectively.

Rocco-1Rocco CingariTrained as a master butcher, Mr. Cingari worked most of his life in the grocery business founded by his father, Salvatore Cingari, an Italian immigrant who opened the family’s first store, Grade A Market, in Stamford in 1943. In 1991, Mr. Cingari led the family company as it joined Wakefern, the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States, and began opening ShopRite stores in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

He was a past member of Wakefern’s Meat Committee and also served on the company’s board of directors. He received the Chairman’s Award during Wakefern’s 2013 annual meeting and retired from the board of directors in 2014.

“Rocky cared deeply about his family, his associates and the community,” said Wakefern President and COO Joe Sheridan. “He had that passionate spirit that defines an entrepreneurial family business and Wakefern. He will be missed.”

Mr. Cingari put his can-do talent and business acumen to work as a community leader and fundraiser. He could be counted on to help local hospitals, clinics and community organizations, and he served on the charitable boards of many different groups. He was most proud of his long affiliation with the Yale Eye Center, where he served for many years as chairman of the Yale New Haven Hospital Eye Research Center Advisory Board. He was a 45-year member and past president of the Darien Lions Club, as well as a founding member and past president of the CT Lions Eye Research Foundation.

Mr. Cingari served his country in the U.S. Navy and spent the next seven decades helping build his family’s grocery business. He served as vice president of Grade A Market before taking over as president and CEO of the family company in the early 1980s, and he worked closely over the years with his brothers and nephews in running all parts of the business.

Mr. Cingari is survived by two daughters, Susan G. Cingari of Boca Raton, FL, and Karen R. Cingari of Stamford; his former wife, Christine Cingari of Stamford; brother Salvatore Cingari Jr. of Stamford; his companion, Marthalou Bruno of Hampton Bays, NY; and many nieces and nephews.