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Published June 02, 2011, 12:00 AM

Buffalo Food Market open for business

Community bands together to reopen small town’s only grocery store
BUFFALO – In less than 24 hours, residents here stripped the shelves, restocked inventory and painted the town’s only grocery store.

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

BUFFALO – In less than 24 hours, residents here stripped the shelves, restocked inventory and painted the town’s only grocery store.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Buffalo Food Market was ready for business as a community-owned operation. Its doors were opened to a flood of fellow shareholders and curious residents who flowed in for the store’s reopening.

“It’s been nonstop. I don’t think they could believe we would be open today like we planned,” Manager Carol Howitz said Wednesday afternoon.

Later in the day, Howitz assisted volunteer Liane Stout with scanning inventory through the new cash register, one of a few changes to the store since it became resident-run.

The store’s shelves are stocked with groceries such as spices, cereal, sugar and flour. Coolers are full of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as snacks for residents who make quick stops. Household needs such as cleaning supplies, paper goods and pet food are also available.

“We’re adding a lot of new products,” Howitz said.

Stout said the store will now have its own store brand of some goods.

Buffalo is a town of about 200 people, 40 miles west of Fargo.

The store – formerly Wrangler Foods – was closed by previous owner Fred Wrangler on May 28. Wrangler announced earlier this year he would be closing the store after failing to make a profit in five years. It was then that a group of residents led by Tammy Erickson formed a task force and began raising money to buy the store’s inventory and keep it running.

In less than a month, shareholders had bought $50,000 worth of stock and proved they were willing to take on the challenge of owning their own store. The money raised would be used to buy the store’s inventory. The building is owned by the city.

“It really has been a team effort, a community effort to open the store under the Buffalo Food Market,” Stout said.

Howitz, a retired bookkeeper, was a part-time employee of Wrangler Foods but will work full time to manage the new store while three part-time employees are eventually hired.

“I do love the people here. I just couldn’t let them down,” Howitz said.

For resident Joni Biggers, having the Buffalo store open saves a trip to Valley City, which is nearly 30 miles from her rural Buffalo home.

“I’m happy it’s staying here,” Biggers said.

Resident Stephanie Aldrich said she also is happy the store could stay open. The mother of two young boys, she stops into the store once or twice a week for necessities, which saves her a trip to Fargo or Valley City.

Stout said the store’s task force has also applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The grant would help fund improvements and upgrades to the building such as new coolers, upgraded bathrooms and possibly a new roof, Stout said.

The store is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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