Grand Marais business owners take on new venture nearly 2 years after downtown fire

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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) – A Grand Marais staple is getting a new beginning.

In April of 2020, the landscape of the tight-knit town of Grand Marais was changed forever after a fire destroyed three businesses in the heart of downtown.

Tyler Dean and his wife Jessica lost their business White Pine North, just one month into the pandemic and less than six months of ownership.

On that day, Tyler remained optimistic.

“This whole pandemic was not in our business plan. We purchased White Pine North in January of this year. This week, a fire is not in our business plan. It’s just kinda crazy,” said Tyler on the day of the fires in 2020.

After the dust settled and the debris was cleared, the Deans hoped to rebuild, but life had other plans.

“With the pandemic creating such supply shortages and material costs going crazy high, we just put that on the shelf and started exploring other ideas,” said Tyler.

The fire was a tragedy for the three business owners and the whole community, but little did the Deans know that that tragedy would lead to an opportunity just a couple of steps away.

Joynes Ben Franklin Department Store has called downtown Grand Marais home for the past 80 years.

It was started back in 1941 by Howard and Rosemary Joynes and has stood the test of time.

It has been passed down through the family for four generations and making its mark on the community.

“The best way to get a gauge on the impact of the Ben Franklin store in Grand Marais is asking around and seeing who has a story about it, and the answer is everyone,” said Grand Marais Mayor Jay DeCoux.

From clothes to shoes to toothbrushes, the Ben Franklin has been a one-stop shop for locals and tourists alike.

In January of 2022, Jim and Shanie Joynes announced they were passing the torch and selling the store to none other than the Deans.

“We want to maintain what it currently is. This is a proven business that has been here for 80 years. Why ruin something that is a good thing?” said Tyler.

Since the fires, Tyler says the Grand Marais community has rallied around his family, hoping one day to see them rise from the ashes and succeed.

“They’re stepping into something beautiful, and I think they’re gonna make a good run at it,” said Mayor DeCoux.

DeCoux is happy to see the store stay with a local family and said that overcoming obstacles is part of the territory in Northern Minnesota.

“People up here are not afraid of a little adversity. That’s why we’re here,” said Mayor DeCoux. “Having things burn down or having things have to change, ya know, these are tough folks, and they are gonna keep doing what they do.”

As one family’s story comes to an end, another’s is just beginning.

The Deans say they are looking forward to continuing the Joynes legacy and giving back to the town that has given them so much.

“To be in a community like this is super special,” said Tyler.

Tyler says keeping the business in the family is always an option but will leave that decision up to his children.

As for the lot left vacant by the fire, Mayor DeCoux says he’s not sure it will stay empty for long.

He says several people are interested in rebuilding and bringing new business to Grand Marais.

Copyright 2022 KBJR. All rights reserved.

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