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Boreal Community Media

Kristofer Bowman: Leaving imprints on hearts everywhere by Sammie Garrity

Jun 19, 2023 05:07AM ● By Editor
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June 17, 2023 by Sammie Garrity for Boreal Community Media

It starts with a hug. Then a big smile will naturally follow. The first time you meet Kristofer Bowman you will probably be met with his signature greeting. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll soon come to cherish it. Walking in to Upstate MN—his local store that has quickly become a staple of the community—is something to look forward to. When my friends and I would go into downtown Grand Marais on the weekends we would always stop at Upstate for the sole purpose of seeing Kristofer. We loved catching up with him and telling him all that was going on in our lives. Despite always being swamped with customers Kristofer would always take the time to talk to us. It was these moments that made us come back. This is indicative of the type of person that Kristofer is. Whenever someone needs help, Kristofer is there. Whenever there is an event to sign up for, Kristofer is there. This warmth and positivity is what allows his business to thrive and to flourish. 


Growing up in Aurora, Minnesota, Bowman spent much of his childhood in the outdoors. He recalled an almost “feral youth” spent biking to his grandmothers 40 acres of land and spending his days exploring. This fondness of wilderness is what originally drew him to the North Shore. After living in Indiana for almost two decades, Kristofer knew that he would eventually come back to Minnesota. However, the final decision to move to Grand Marais was made on a whim. Nine years ago, Kristofer traveled to the Grand Marais Art Colony’s art festival and he became enchanted with the beauty of the town and the community of people.

“I was totally in love—knowing that the woods were the woods of my youth—but also seeing this big, beautiful lake” said Bowman. 


The ability to run a business more easily—especially being self-employed—only solidified his decision to make the visit permanent. Bowman recalled his move was made easier by the welcoming and encouraging community. He said, “I met some great people straight away which made things easier in the transition.” The unique thing about Grand Marais for Bowman was the ability to connect with people and set down roots. The all too familiar cold winter pushed him inside Java Moose where he spent most mornings chatting with the retired teachers. He joined the Cook County Arts Committee, opening up the door for friendships and business connections. Over time, these relationships allowed him to feel comfortable calling Grand Marais home. 

Looking back, his life has not changed all that much from when he was a young boy on the Iron Range. He still spends his time—if not at Upstate or with his partner, Andy—wandering in the woods. 

“I mean, there are moments where I pinch myself as I wander my little bit of woods, and also honestly moments where I wonder how I landed here,” Bowman said. 

He expressed a lot of gratitude for the gift of nature and the lessons that it has taught him. This same gratitude has carried over to the overall community, as well. Bowman reflected on “all of the different histories of the people that grew up here” and how it is these different journeys that allow us to “work together” and build community. 

“There is something about surviving here at the end of this road that bonds us together,” said Bowman. 


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