AP NEWS

Struggling small-town grocery store to stay open, for now

December 24, 2019 GMT

CASSELTON, N.D. (AP) — The lone grocery store in a small town close North Dakota’s largest city had planned to close it doors for good on Christmas.

Instead the holiday just got brighter for the 2,500 or so residents of Casselton, located 30 miles west of Fargo off Interstate 94.

Store owner Fred Wrangler told KFGO radio he decided to hire a new manager to help keep the business afloat while he looks for a buyer. Like other full-service rural grocery stores, Wrangler Foods is struggling to compete with larger stores in urban areas.

Wrangler once had six stores in rural North Dakota and now he has three, including two in more remote areas that are thriving. It will need community support to keep Casselton open and secure the sale, he said.

“Hopefully it will at least be break-even so I don’t lose money on the proposition,” Wrangler said.

Charlie Francis, a member of the Casselton City Council, said the decision by Wrangler to stay open is an early Christmas present. A grocery store is “a huge thing for any community to lose,” Francis said.

State lawmakers are studying ways to keep rural grocery stores from closing. A recent study found that since 2014, 30 full-service grocery stores closed or are no longer full-service out in North Dakota towns with fewer than 2,100 people.