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Small town in northeast North Dakota is booming with new business

Jeramy Holm heads down main street in Buxton Wednesday morning. Jesse Trelstad/ Forum News Service 1 / 3
Paul Zavoral of Higher Ground inc, uses a grade rod while Lonni Peterson excavates dirt with the backhoe for the footing of Jermay Holm residence just outside of Buxton..Jesse Trelstad/ Forum News Service 2 / 3
The restored bank in Buxton is now home to Buxton in bloom, with a waiting area and conference room in front and offices in the rear of the building. Jesse Trelstad/ Forum News Service3 / 3

BUXTON, N.D.—Those searching to live in a community within a half-hour drive of Grand Forks might be stopping in Buxton, and then they're probably moving on.

The reason is there's virtually nothing to buy in this Traill County community of 325.

"Houses change hands, but a lot of them never actually hit the market," said Ben Hershey, president of Buxton Improvement Group (BIG). "Most of the houses sold here are those someone knows about. They hear that someone wants to sell and they buy."

That's how Hershey found his Buxton home. So did Dan Fuglesten, a sales manager with Central Valley Bean Cooperative, a pinto bean processor that built a bulk fertilizer plant last year in Buxton.

"Housing has turned around quite a bit," said Melissa Beach, executive director of Traill County Economic Development. "In 2009, Buxton had quite a bit of housing available. Right now, it's hard to find anything."

And Buxton is booming.

Central Valley's expansion is just one of several new or expanding businesses and industries in town.

Agassiz Drain Tile, a locally owned company opened about a decade ago. The company installs drain tile—plastic pipe—in the ground to improve agricultural drainage.

Advanced Drainage Systems, a drain tile manufacturer, then built one of its nearly 50 U.S. plants in Buxton to take advantage of the Red River Valley's expanding drain tile market.

A Versatile farm equipment dealership also has been proposed for construction in the community.

They've joined other longtime businesses, such as NoKota Packers, a packager and distributor of table stock red potatoes, to form a vibrant business-industrial corridor in the community.

The local business expansion cannot be attributed to some organized marketing effort by BIG, leaders said.

"It's just a matter of people liking the community as a business location," Fuglesten said,

Buxton is located just off Interstate 29 about 30 miles south of Grand Forks.

"The biggest transition is people are living and working in Buxton," Beach said. "Ten years ago it, was more of a commuter town."

Buxton operates a nonprofit day care center with a capacity of 18 children. The community also has a couple of private in-home child care facilities.

Jeramy Holm, owner of Holm Sweet Home, a housing construction company, couldn't find a house in town when he and his wife, Danae, decided to move from the Fox Farm Addition north of Grand Forks to Buxton in 2009. So they bought a wooded 40-acre farmstead just west of town, where they are building a home for their family.

The Holms also are operating a small hobby farm with hogs, sheep, fresh vegetables and a variety of other farmyard animals.

"The difference in what we're paying for fuel and what we paid in taxes in Grand Forks, and the affordability of living in a small town, there's no comparison," he said.

While some communities struggle to keep a small-town cafe in operation, Buxton supports two—the BarN & Grill, which opened in early 2015, and StacheBoxx Sandwich Shoppe, a specialty grilled sandwich restaurant that opened about two months ago.

Two residents, Craig Connor and Donny Nettum, bought the old Buxton City Hall property, tore the building down and built a large barn-shaped building for the bar and restaurant.

Kenny LaBryer, who lives in Reynolds, N.D., just 7 miles north of town, opened StacheBoxx in the former Buxton Cafe next to the Triple VVV Bar.

LaBryer, who has worked in several different types of restaurants—from fast food to fine-dining establishments—moved from Kansas City, Mo., to North Dakota about 10 years ago.

Main Street is anchored by the Buxton Bank, a restored historic bank building that houses Hepper Olson Architects. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Besides the business, the building doubles as a museum, complete with a tear gas dispensing system that was installed after a 1928 bank robbery. A wall containing bullet holes from a 1933 robbery in which a teller was killed still stands there.

"One thing we have noticed in Buxton is that it's local people," Beach said. "These local people really understand that you can't rely on anyone else. I think that's what we're seeing, they're investing and really promoting their own community."

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.