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

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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) – A must in the Grand Marais is getting a new start.

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

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

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,” Tyler said on Fire Day 2020.

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

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

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

Joynes Ben Franklin department store has called downtown Grand Marais home for the past 80 years.

It was launched 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 has left its mark on the community.

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

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

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

“We want to maintain what it is now. It’s a proven company that’s been around for 80 years. Why waste something that is a good thing? Tyler said.

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 getting into something magnificent, and I think they’re going to pull it off,” Mayor DeCoux said.

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

“People here are not afraid of a little adversity. That’s why we’re here,” Mayor DeCoux said. “Whether things burn or things change, you know, they’re tough people, and they’re gonna keep doing what they do.”

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

Deans say they look forward to continuing Joynes’ legacy and giving back to the city that has given them so much.

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

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

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

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

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