Monday, March 4, 2024

Here’s the story behind the goats on the roof of Coomb’s Old Country Market


Meet Minyon, Nibbles and Pip! 

If you live on Vancouver Island, you’ve most likely heard of or been to Coombs’ Goats on the Roof. 

The famous market draws in Vancouver Island locals and tourists from all over to see the spectacle of goats grazing on top of a sod rooftop. 

In fact, it isn’t just a popular stop for tourists on their way up island, it’s a destination all on its own!

So how did it come to be? And why goats?

In 1973, husband and wife duo Kristian and Solveig Graaten started a fruit stand beside the Alberni highway in Coombs.

One year later, their plans evolved, and they began selling hamburgers to travellers along their route.

Two years after that, the couple decided to build a market. 

Now, the Old Country Market has become one of the top tourist destinations in British Columbia, with locals and tourists alike coming to buy some delicious treats.

Its biggest claim to fame, however, are the goats that graze on the sod rooftop starting every spring.

The design for the Old Country Market was inspired by Kristian’s childhood community of Lillehammer, Norway. 

According to him, many Norwegian homes and farm structures are built directly into the hillside, with the sod roof becoming an extension of the hillside. 

Inspired by this construction, Kris built the market with a sod roof.

So why goats?

Over thirty years ago, on the weekend of the annual Coombs Fall Fair, the owners of the market decided the grass was growing long and began to ponder how they could keep up with the maintenance.

After a few glasses of wine, it was suggested they borrow some goats to mow the grass and provide entertainment for passing cars. 

Soon, the goats became a permanent tenant of the market. 

Now, each spring, goats make their home on the roof and tourists travel to watch them graze.

The structure is not just a good habitat for goats, however. 

Also referred to as a ‘green roof’, this environmentally friendly method of building provides insulation and promotes evaporation, meaning it keeps everything warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Today, the Old Country Market is owned and operated by Larry and Lene Geekie and their family and includes a restaurant, Italian eatery Cuckoo Trattoria, WabiSabi Boardwear and Billy G’s donut shop. 

Want to meet the goats for yourselves? Meet Minyon, Nibbles and Pip in person or online here!

Coombs Old Country Market

  • Location: 2326 Alberni Highway, Coombs
  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Sunday

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