Grand Marais takes a stand against chain stores and wins, for now


It was named America's "Coolest Small Town" last year, and residents of Grand Marais are determined to make sure it stays that way.

This month has seen an uprising among locals against the arrival of national chains to the popular North Shore city, after plans were mooted to open a Dollar General Store on land along its main road, Highway 61.

KBJR reports Grand Marais city council put a temporary, 12-month moratorium on all commercial development of more than 5,000 square feet after pushback from residents who fear chain stores could ruin the city's distinctive charm.

Rumors of the store's arrival prompted people to crowd into council meetings to make their objections known, while a petition with almost 1,500 signatures made it clear why chainstores are so opposed.

The petition says allowing a Dollar store "sends a message to everyone entering Grand Marais that Grand Marais is just like every other small town in the United States. It's not unique. It's not different. It's not eclectic. It's not independent."

It also expresses fears that allowing Dollar would "open the floodgates," saying: "First Dollar General, then McDonald's."

"We will no longer be 'The Coolest Small Town in America'...we will be everytown," it says.

The moratorium will give the city a year to study the issue raised by the petitioners who are worried about the impact it could have on the local, independent stores and restaurants which make up the bulk of the Grand Marais business community.

Fears over business impact

Jim Joynes, the third generation owner of Joynes Ben Franklin department store, was among those who spoke up at a recent council meeting, saying Dollar General and other chains are not interested in providing "friendly competition" to local businesses.

"Friendly competition is healthy," he said, according to the Cook County Herald. "Dollar General is not interested in friendly competition; their shareholders want to make money. They target small towns, where stores buying product by the dozens can’t compete with their pricing power of buying in lots of 100,000s."

"The average Dollar General store displaces $1.5 million away from stores already selling the same type of products," he added.

After agreeing the year-long moratorium, Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux told the Star Tribune: "The big concern is that we want to be able to direct development in a way that would best serve our community and best protect the businesses that are already here, as well as encouraging new businesses that would enhance our economy."

A spokesperson for Dollar General Store told the newspaper the company is "respectful of community concerns and thoughtful in store design," saying its new developments are built in a way that reflects "the charm and character" of their surroundings.

Next Up

minnesota house of representatives

Minnesota House will continue hybrid operations, require masks in 2022

The Speaker of the House announced the plans in a memo to members and staff on Thursday.

autumn larson settlement

Minneapolis committee OKs $45K payout to woman shot by police during riots

She was hit in the face with a "less lethal" projectile while she was in her car trying to leave the protest.


What NOAA's winter outlook says about Minnesota

A moderate La Niña winter is expected.

Merwin Liquors

Liquor store that has become shooting hotspot seeking to move

The area surrounding Merwin's Liquors has been beset by crime in recent years.

Mohamed Noor

Ex-Minneapolis cop Noor resentenced to 57 months in prison

Justine Ruszczyk Damond's fiancé said he forgives Noor.

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards was right: he is Houdini and his bag of tricks is incredible

Edwards put the entire league on notice with his season-opening performance.

Bob Fletcher

New 'public service' charter school backed by Ramsey Co. Sheriff to open

Efforts to open the school were spearheaded in part by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

covid-19 testing site sign

Minnesota to offer free COVID rapid testing at 9 more sites

Three new rapid testing sites opened in Minnesota this week.


Elvis Costello cancels Mystic Lake show, will play vax-requiring First Ave instead

Those who bought tickets to Mystic Lake will be refunded, and need to buy new tickets.


23 Minnesotans infected with salmonella linked to onions

Four of Minnesota residents were hospitalized. None have died.


Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 3.52.24 PM

Restaurant, two gift stores destroyed in Grand Marais fire

The Crooked Spoon Cafe is among the destroyed businesses.

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 3.52.24 PM

Major fire burning restaurant, stores in Grand Marais

Among those affected is the Crooked Spoon.

End may be near for Grand Marais' 'Beaver House'

Health and aging concerns for the owners of the popular North Shore bait shop suggest that change is coming. The shop has been on the market for a little over two weeks. Whatever happens, neighboring businesses and tourists say things will never be the same. Northland News Center takes a closer look.

Grand Marais climber going for Mt. McKinley summit record

Lonnie Dupre, of Grand Marais, hopes to be successful with his second attempt to become the first solo climber to summit Alaska's Mount McKinley in January. According to the Duluth News Tribune, Dupre spent 22 days alone on North America's highest mountain when a storm kept him from reaching the top on his first try last year.