Humans of the Keweenaw: Interview with Stef Cook

I really hope to see everyone take as much pride in this community as I do. We need to take care of the area, even with simple things like eliminating litter and keeping the place clean. So much has changed for the better, and it would be great to see it continue.

September 12, 2017

This is the eighth in a series of planned interviews highlighting humans in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties who are working to improve our community’s quality of life.

Interview conducted on 9/6/17 by Hailey Hart
Photos provided by Stef Cook


Please, tell us a little about yourself.

“I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. After high school I went to Utah State University, which is where I met my husband. I decided that college wasn’t right for me and I moved back to Salt Lake City to ponder what I wanted and knew I needed creativity in my life.”


What did you do when you went back to Salt Lake City?

 “I decided to start my own framing business. My mom is an artist and always enjoyed decorating and other things like that. I was 14 or 15 at the time when she opened a retail shop. I started working at a different frame shop around the same time and  fell in love with framing. When I came back from college, I started my own business in connection with my mom’s retail shop.”



What eventually lead you to Houghton?

“After Salt Lake City, we lived in California for a bit. In 2003, my husband was offered a job at Michigan Tech and we thought it would be a fun 3 year adventure; Here we are 14 years later. I worked at Wicker and Willow in Houghton for 6 or more years until they were closing the shop and Karyn Olsson offered me a position at Marketing Department Inc (MDI).”


What do you do at MDI?

“My title is ‘Special Opps’, which means I do a little bit of everything. I keep everyone on deadlines and budgets. I basically try to keep everyone on task. I enjoy the creative side and the brainstorming. If I don’t have something creative going on in my life I get sort of cranky.”



Since design is something you do for work and pleasure, what are some other hobbies that take up your time?

“I love to garden and cook. Just being out in nature is great; I love all sorts of outdoor activities. The Keweenaw is a great place to be an outdoor person. I also love sports and I try to golf as much as I can in the summer. I tend to doodle and color a lot, especially in the winter, it goes by a little quicker that way. I even have a bowling ball collection.”


I can definitely say I’ve never heard anyone else say that. Do you care to explain?

“I wish I knew how many I had… thirty-something probably. They range in color; they are all the same size. Some don’t have holes, some have one, and others have all three. I have no idea where the collection came from. Every time I found one that I liked, I nabbed it. Most of them are still in Utah, no one wanted to help me move that heavy of a collection. I would like to have them with me again someday. I used to have them all over the house; I even used one as a toothbrush holder.”


So do you actually bowl as well?

“Yes, but I’m not a very good. I used to have a bunch of different bowling shoes, too!”




How do you fit all of the fun in with work?

“Hmm, I don’t know. I’m like uber organized. You kind of have to force yourself sometimes to balance your passions with your work. I’ve gotten really good at that. I take one day off a week from MDI to fit in time for myself. I try to spend my evenings by doing something fun like kayaking, sports, or some sort of outdoor activity.”


You mentioned that you enjoy volunteering, what are some of your favorite events to volunteer at?

“Brewfest is my favorite for sure. I love the people part about it. I’ve also volunteered doing some interior design work at Michigan Tech, that’s another activity I really enjoy. There are so many good fundraisers and lots of ways you can give back in this community. Our family delivers meals on Easter and Christmas for Little Brothers, that way you get to meet some people you wouldn’t necessarily meet out in the community. I’ve also been involved with Habitat for Humanity for 12 years. I’m the Co-Chair of the Selection Committee. I interview the applicants and our committee determines the project and who gets selected for the house/project. I served on the board for 6 years until my term limit was up. I try my best to get involved as much as I can with the house building as well, but it’s hard to find time.”



You  have always helped with Brewfest, which is a major event of ours each year. Do you have any other ties to Keweenaw Community Foundation?

“I was very involved with Brewfest from the start and for the first 5 years. I’ve continued to volunteer at the event each year. I would also be involved with many of the different events that went on during the years. When we first moved here, I helped work on some of the gardens outside the old KCF location in downtown Houghton.”



What are your favorite parts about this community?

“I would definitely have to say the people, the close knit community and the opportunity for recreation, no matter what the season.”


What is one thing you would like to see to happen in this community over the next couple of years?

“Well, I think the Downtown Beautification Committee and the façade updates have been great. I really hope to see everyone take as much pride in this community as I do. We need to take care of the area, even with simple things like eliminating litter and keeping the place clean. So much has changed for the better, and it would be great to see it continue.”


For more information on Stef Cook or Marketing Department Inc. visit their website at

Through philanthropic services, strategic investments and community leadership, Keweenaw Community Foundation helps people support the causes they care about, now and for generations to come. For more information on Keweenaw Community Foundation and how to give, explore our website at

Contact: Stef Cook or Hailey Hart