We may be living in an age where multigenerational mom-and-pop businesses disappear on a daily basis, but there's one in Grand Marais that appears poised to buck the trend.
It's called Joynes Ben Franklin, a department store that's been on Wisconsin Street since 1941 — and in its current location since 1954. It started when recently married Howard and Rosemary Joyne purchased an old general store, and since then, it's been in family hands for four generations.
On Saturday, they posted an announcement on Facebook that the business — which carries the nickname "Everyone's Favorite Store on the Shore" — has been sold:
But the Joynes family were exceedingly careful about who they sold to, even though they had no shortage of offers.
"Ladies and gentlemen, some of the prospective buyers and proposals we heard would curl your toes and boil your blood….think change and development, think of the types of shops you find in Niagara Falls and Wisconsin Dells," the post says.
As owners Jim and Shanie Joynes explain, the search for a new owner took a dramatic turn after a 2020 fire that burned down three local businesses. During community redevelopment meetings, the Joynes family "kept hearing one voice stand out... this voice was optimistic, energetic, and committed to getting his business rebuilt and back up and running."
That voice belonged to Grand Marais native Tyler Dean, owner of one of the businesses that was lost in the fire.
"To make a really long story short, one day I asked him why he wouldn't just buy my business."
Last Spring, the Facebook post says, Dean became general manager at Joynes Ben Franklin, an arrangement that "paved a path toward possible transition."
"More importantly, it gave both of us the time needed to conduct due diligence, to make sure we had a perfect fit. I think it is."
So what's next for the department store on Wisconsin Street? The Joynes family says the community will find "great comfort" in the store's future:
I’m excited to tell you that Tyler and Jessica Dean have taken over ownership of the Joynes Department Store and Ben Franklin. I’ll let them tell you their story and tell you about their plans for the future. Rest assured, all indications are that the things you’ve come to expect from our 80 years in business will remain the cornerstone for the future. They plan to take a successful business and build on it to make it better. I think the community, our customers, and our visitors will find great comfort in this transition.
Ben Franklin is a chain of franchisee-operated department stores that goes back to the late 19th Century.