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Published May 20, 2013, 11:30 PM

Owner of Fargo’s Tochi Products dies at age 66

FARGO – The community’s “original hippie businessman,” as his brother called him, died last week after sudden medical problems. He was 66 years old.

By: Ryan Johnson, INFORUM

FARGO – The community’s “original hippie businessman,” as his brother called him, died last week after sudden medical problems. He was 66 years old.

But the specialty health and food store Will Hoglund founded here 42 years ago will live on under the leadership of his two sons.

Louis Hoglund said his older brother was “the kind of person you run into about once a century” – a high-energy character who followed his passions when he and his former wife opened Tochi Products in 1971, at the time leasing a small lower-level space under a record store on Fargo’s Roberts Street.

“This was not a Bill Gates type,” Louis Hoglund said. “He was definitely unconventional in his approach and, frankly, flew by the seat of his pants. But I think through sheer determination and dedication, he managed to pull it off.”

Tochi Products Manager Joe Hoglund said his father, a health-conscious man who remained active with the store and a hobby farm near Audubon, Minn., was treating what they thought was a minor illness before they traveled to California for a business trip. But his condition worsened, and he was hospitalized following a pulmonary arrest that led to heart failure and his death on May 14.

“A guy that can run from sunup to sundown has got to be pretty healthy,” he said. “That’s why this is just a shocker for us all.”

A memorial service in Fargo is still being planned. Details will be announced in the coming days on the store’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TochiProducts.

Hoglund was born in Fargo on Jan. 16, 1947, and graduated from Grand Forks Central High School in 1965. He attended North Dakota State University and Moorhead State University Moorhead, later graduating with an associate’s degree from Brainerd (Minn.) Vocational College.

Joe Hoglund said his father lived in Minneapolis for several years after college, working at a wholesale floral shop where he met his ex-wife, Naomi Nakamoto. The two moved to Fargo, and Hoglund opened Tochi with help from family and a small loan from Harwood (N.D.) State Bank – the only bank that would give him a loan.

He said his father didn’t think the business was as radical of a concept as the banking industry labeled it in the early 1970s. “He always looked at it as going back to the way our grandparents lived,” he said.

Joe Hoglund said the store, which took its name from the Japanese word for earth, focused on organic and natural foods. Tochi Products grew over the years, relocating in 1978 to the former Old Milwaukee Road railroad depot at 1111 2nd Ave. N., built in 1901.

Louis Hoglund said his brother, an Eagle Scout with a lifelong interest in Native American history, also kept busy at “Tochi East,” his hobby farm near Audubon where he raised organic fruit and produce that he sold at the store.

Joe Hoglund said there was “never a dull moment” with his father, whom he and older brother Gabe Hoglund first started working for about 20 years ago to get an allowance. The two now run the store.

“Obviously, you’d have your struggles, but I couldn’t think of anything better than having a daily relationship with your father,” he said.

He said Tochi Products will remain open for years to come – just the way Hoglund had planned.

“I want to keep his dream alive,” he said. “He saw something here, and he put his heart into it. I want to keep it going and make him proud, and keep it going for another 40 years here.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587