MAYVILLE, N.D.—A “Now Open” banner was all it took last weekend to demonstrate how much last year’s closing of a local department store affected the Mayville-Portland community.
After shoppers quickly filled the lot outside the Shopko Hometown store, parking spilled over to the Cenex convenience store next door.
“There was a lot of pent-up energy to get a store open,” manager Chad Kussatz said.
The building had been empty since the January 2015 closing of the Alco Discount Store, which had been the lone department store in Mayville and Portland, two neighboring Traill County communities that have a combined population of about 2,500.
Alco, a national chain that declared bankruptcy, had 198 stores in 23 states, including 13 in North Dakota and 12 in Minnesota.
Shopko, which has 372 stores in 25 states, operates 14 stores in North Dakota, all of them Shopko Hometown stores, which range in size from 15,000 to 35,000 square feet, much smaller than the company’s big box businesses.
A grand opening is set for Friday in Mayville. It’s one of 10 new Shopko stores officially opening that day across the country, the closest in Iowa.
“Our hope is to provide the needs so the residents don’t have to drive out of town to get their goods,” Michele Hanson, a Shopko company spokeswoman, said of the company’s Mayville store.
Mayville is about 40 miles southwest of Grand Forks and 60 miles northwest of Fargo.
Mayville and Portland are about a mile apart, though they are connected by N.D. Highway 200, which is lined with businesses, community amenities and Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg School.
Attracting Shopko is just one of several solutions small communities in northeast North Dakota have employed as a way to keep residents shopping in town instead of taking their business to larger cities.
Shopko, which has moved into several former Alco buildings in North Dakota and Minnesota communities in the past year, is not the only national retailer expanding in the region.
Dollar General, a small-box discount company based in Tennessee, plans at least seven stores in North Dakota next year, including Mayville, Hillsboro and Larimore. Other North Dakota stores will be in Ellendale, Hankinson, Gwinner and Oakes, said Tyler Oliver, founder of Colby Capital, a real estate development company based in Kansas.
It will be Dollar General’s first venture into North Dakota.
The anticipated opening of the Hillsboro and Larimore stores are in February, while the Mayville store is March.
“They love small-town America,” Oliver said of Dollar General. “They’re all at least 30 miles from the bigger communities,” he said. “It won’t stop you from going there, but it may slow you down. And it should give people in other communities a choice to stop there rather than driving on to Fargo or Grand Forks.”
The Larimore store will be built along North Dakota Highway 18 just north of the city.
Oliver declined to identify a location in Mayville, saying that a site has been chosen but the deal has not been finalized.
Grass roots effort
Finding a tenant for the former Alco building has been the May-Port community’s top priority. The city of Mayville offered Shopko, based in Green Bay, Wis., a rebate of half of the city’s 2 percent city sales it generates over the next five years. The rebate is capped at $150,000.
The new store employs about 25, including six full-time employees, said Kussatz, who is moving to Mayville-Portland from Grand Forks. The majority of employees attend Mayville State University, which has about 1,100 students.
The former Alco store employed about 20 workers.
“We call this a success for the community,” said Ernie Strube, Mayville-Portland Economic Development Corp. president and president of Goose River Bank in Mayville.
As reported by the Grand Forks Herald, March 20, 2016
Parts of this article were edited, read the full article on the Grand Forks Herald.