It all started in 1973 when Kristian and Solveig Graaten thought, “what if we started a fruit stand beside the highway?”
Kristian Graaten, his wife Solveig, and their children Svein and Larry had moved to Vancouver from Norway in the 1950s. Their initially humble project, the fruit stand, soon grew when after a year they wondered, “what if we sold hamburgers to travellers en route to the West Coast?” Two years later, their project became even more ambitious. But why not? They wondered, “what if we built a market?”
The market’s famous grassy roof was inspired by the sod roofs Kris had grown up around in his hometown of Lillehammer, Norway. These sod roofs, also called “green roofs,” are environmentally friendly because of the way the grass insulates, retaining heat in winter and keeping the heat at bay during the summer months.
According to local lore, the addition of the goats came when, during the weekend of the Coombs Fall Fair, and several glasses of wine in, Larry noticed that the grass on the roof was getting a little long; he proposed “borrowing” some goats to chow that grass down, noting that in addition to getting the job done the rooftop goats might entertain the passers by. And indeed they did––and continue to do so to this day: the Country Market is now listed as an attraction in Lonely Planet’s Canada as “The mother of all pit stops,” and Lonely Planet highlights in particular “the grassy roof, where a herd of goats spend the season.”
Today, the Old Country Market is owned and operated by Larry and Lene Geekie, and it continues to attract and delight visitors from all over the world for its delectable and eclectic food offerings, rare and exotic shopping boutiques, and, of course, its rooftop goats.