More than 40 years ago, the Cook County Whole Foods Co-Op started on the front porch of a local artist in Grand Marais. The idea was to put donations into a coffee can and people could take the amount of bulk coffee beans, grains and other items for an amount they felt was fair.
In 40 years, much has changed. Now located in downtown Grand Marais, the Cook County Whole Foods Co-Op is a bustling enterprise that is open seven days week. It features an assortment of fresh, organic produce, meat, dairy products, grains, bulk products and homemade soups, salads and sandwiches. Also lining the shelves are kind-to-the-earth health care items and eco-friendly cleaning supplies. The local co-op has more than 2,500 owner members. And while members are key to the structural roots of the business, anyone is welcome to shop at the co-op.
Grand Marais and Cook County are essentially the end of the road for the food industry to deliver products on the U.S. side of the international line with Canada. This can increase the cost of items like produce, meat and other items with a shorter shelf life. However, the co-op takes pride in offering fair prices for top-quality products. Indeed, the co-op has found their niche with both local residents and visitors to the North Shore who seek out organic food and drink. And it’s obviously filling a need in the community, as the co-op is often busy 12 months out of the year at any given time of the day.
An in-house deli that features rotating soups and fresh sandwiches makes the co-op a popular spot during the lunch hour, and a full retail section with organic avocadoes, tomatoes and nearly every other produce item one can think of greets visitors as they enter the store. Situated atop the roof of the business are a series of solar panels, as the co-op strives for reducing its carbon footprint while also embracing the concept of ‘food as medicine’ to its many loyal customers.
The Cook County Whole Foods Co-Op is located at 20 1st St. in downtown Grand Marais.