Grenora was founded in 1916 at the end of a Great Northern Railway branch line that began in Stanley. The name comes from a combination of letters in the railway's name: GREat NOrthern RAilway. The tracks were in place until 2002, when Great Northern successor BNSF Railway filed for abandonment.
The city's motto is, "Friendliness lives here — you're only a stranger once." The city is home to a senior citizen's center, credit union, gas station, grain elevator, restaurant, bar which has famous cheeseburgers statewide, apartment buildings, and community built low-income housing. There are also two churches: the St. Olaf Lutheran Church (ELCA) and St. Boniface Catholic Church.