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Clinton Township

Published November 18, 2013

Party store pioneer Paul Buscemi left mark on metro Detroit

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Paul Buscemi, the founder of Buscemi’s Party Shoppe, died Nov. 7 in his Clinton Township home. He was 89.

Buscemi enjoyed a life that made other people his top priority.

He was honored with a Purple Heart medal, the European, Africa and Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, the Good Conduct Medal and the WWII Victory medal for his role in World War II.

Post-war, he opened the first Buscemi’s Party Shoppe out of an old chicken coop on 8 1/2 Mile and Gratiot Avenue in 1956.

He changed the landscape of metropolitan Detroit, and he did it with the right recipes and an inordinate amount of kindness.

“We used to go to Vegas together, Arizona together — the man had a heart,” said Mario D’Agostini, who is a franchise owner of the Buscemi’s location on Hall Road. “He used to spend money on strange things to decorate stores, and he loved when the kids were happy and eating food that he liked.”

D’Agostini met Buscemi at a young age through his parents, who owned their own franchise. When D’Agostini expressed interest in becoming a franchise owner, Buscemi told him that he would have to work for it.

“When we discussed franchising, I was 15 years old,” D’Agostini, 53, said. “He made me start at the bottom, scrubbing tiles and working my way up. Paul would be a real hands-on person and was very particular about his recipe. We used to blend four different kinds of mozzarella cheese to make his recipe, to give it his special flavor. Even the peppers, he used to buy peppers and put them in salt and vinegar and do it himself.”

Buscemi made a name for himself with his special-style Sicilian square pizza and sub sandwiches, both of which are still popular. The first franchise store opened at 19 Mile and Garfield roads in 1977. With 43 stores now standing in metro Detroit, Buscemi’s name lives on in the products he created and the recipes he cultivated.

“(The recipes) all came back from Paul Buscemi and that’s the truth,” D’Agostini said. “Paul was always one to have a clean good time and enjoy life.”

Buscemi was buried Nov. 14. He is survived by his wife, Marion, four children, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and four siblings.

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