Have you ever had the opportunity to visit Grand Marais, Minnesota? It is a short and pretty drive south from Thunder Bay, along beautiful Lake Superior. It takes approximately 90 minutes and I would recommend a visit for a number of reasons, and the purpose of this article is to point out to you how this tiny community has developed its potential in tourism, and other opportunities to the fullest. One word to the wise though, watch-out for the deer along the way!
Grand Marais sits on the south-west corner of Lake Superior, and it takes full advantage of this opportunity. How much of Lake Superior do we or our tourists see? This is another topic for another day.
The one striking concept I have noticed in my visits is how every business in Grand Marias respect and promotes each-other’s business. It is a nice feeling to experience this, and this alone creates a nice cozy feel to the community. I find this to be unique and profitable at the same time for the community.
An example of this experience can be viewed at a restaurant on the Lake, the Angry Trout! This restaurant features local fish, such as Lake Superior herring and lake trout supplied from local fishermen (“fishers”) to be politically correct. This is another story-why we aren’t afforded this opportunity to sell local fish at our restaurants in Ontario, yes you guessed it-regulations.
The local fisher’s boats are docked alongside the restaurant where they also supply sight-seeing cruises to the public of the harbor and the surrounding shoreline that just so happen to be dining outside or in, looking at the Lake. A captive market for their fish and for sight-seeing!
Inside the restaurant, you are served food that is local, such as the delicious fish as well as other delicacies and this includes locally made breads, and locally grown herbs and seasonal fruits and vegetables. I know this because the menu profiles the names and location of the suppliers of this locally made produce, and pottery, and the names of the local fishers and lake charter operators.
Your glass of water and coffee or tea, are both supplied from locally made pottery. Adorning the walls of this establishment is locally crafted art, with the names of the local artists and their contact information, along with the asking price for these local scenes captured in oil or water colours. Beside the restaurant is another business, a fish shop.
This is a typical representation of this phenomenon, and it signifies what this community has undertaken to promote itself and it is working. Nothing fancy just local businesses working together for the betterment of their community. You will find this co-operation at every establishment in Grand Marais. The restaurant also profiles local accommodation for travelers to consider. These motels in turn profile the local artists and restaurants, and fish charters.
I have checked this out at other Grand Marais restaurants just to see whether this was a one-off, or was it the norm and I was happy to see this repeated at every business. At another restaurant there were local musicians playing for donations, and again, there was local art and crafts on display for purchase.
I checked with the local Chamber office, and by the way they do have a simple attractive website, and was directed to Diane Brostrom from the Grand Marais and Area Tourism Association. She told me,” it is a spirit of co-operation that is unique. The businesses realize that they depend upon one-another, and firmly believe in the old saying of what comes around-goes around”.
I know that our northwestern Ontario communities have an art scene, sometimes low profile, as well as some pretty fine musicians, and crafters. Combined with our great restaurants and accommodations we have the same opportunity to put this all together in a package for our tourists. We need to profile this more and this initiative doesn’t require government funding, we can do it today ourselves, and create a new buzz in our communities.
We have what Grand Marais has; we just need to create the same atmosphere.