FARGO - Several national chain stores in Fargo and West Fargo have already planned their Sunday opening hours for when August arrives and North Dakota’s blue law restricting retail sales are swept away.

Weekend warriors won’t have to travel to Moorhead or wait until noon to get hardware and building materials.

Menards plans to have its North Dakota stores open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays starting Aug. 4, just as they are in all of the other states the corporation does business, Jeff Abbott, spokesman for the Eau Claire, Wis.-based firm, said Thursday, March 28.

The Fargo Lowe’s store is also changing it's opening time to 8 a.m. on Sundays.

“Looking forward to it,” Lowe's Manager Jen Schuh said Thursday.

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Fleet Farm and Home Depot in Fargo could well follow suit, though managers at those stores said they haven’t yet received any direction on hours.

All of the other Fleet Farm stores in the Midwest open at 8 a.m. on Sundays, store Manager Dan Carlson said, adding, “I’d be surprised if we didn’t.”

Home Depot stores in the region also open earlier on Sundays than the noon start still in force in North Dakota. But hours fluctuate between locations. A Sioux Falls, S.D., store opens at 8 a.m. on Sunday, as does the Richfield, Minn., store, but the St. Louis Park, Minn., location boasts a 7 a.m. Sunday opening time on its web page.

Bulk buyers can also start stock-up runs earlier.

The Sam’s Club warehouse store will open at 10 a.m., club Manager Michael Rinkenberger said Friday, March 29. Rinkenberger said it should make the shopping experience less hectic as sales are spread out over eight hours versus six.

That’s what every other Sam’s opens up at around the country,” Rinkenberger said. “It’s definitely going to be advantageous for sales.”

Angela Bauer, the manager of Costco Wholesale in West Fargo, declined to comment. However, other stores around the region, such as in Sioux Falls and Woodbury, Minn., open at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

Big Box electronics retailer Best Buy said its Fargo store will open at 10 a.m. on Sundays starting in August.

Freedom and fairness

Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation repealing North Dakota’s ban on Sunday morning shopping on March 25.

The repeal becomes effective Aug. 1, meaning the first Sunday with legal morning sales will be Aug. 4.

Burgum said the legislation will help North Dakota businesses compete with online retailers and stores in neighboring states.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signs a bill repealing the state's ban on Sunday morning shopping Monday, March 25, 2019. Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Doug Burgum
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signs a bill repealing the state's ban on Sunday morning shopping Monday, March 25, 2019. Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Doug Burgum

State senators narrowly passed the bill on March 19, ending a long-standing debate that sharply divided lawmakers on issues of religion and free enterprise.

The current law makes it a Class B misdemeanor to operate a business before noon on Sunday, with a long list of exceptions for restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and other establishments. Violators of the Sunday closing law face, at most, 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine.

The bill, championed by Fargo Republican Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, is a major rollback of Sunday restrictions that can be traced to the days before North Dakota was a state. Lawmakers made North Dakota the last state to permit Sunday shopping in 1991 by allowing it after noon. Shoppers have been known to wait outside store doors on Sunday mornings before legally perusing retailers’ wares.

The bill didn’t affect North Dakota law on vehicle sales by dealerships, which are not allowed on Sundays. Nor does it expand the hours that licensed establishments can sell liquor. No alcohol sales are allowed between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Brandon Medenwald, a Fargo businessman who led the “North Dakota Open on Sundays” group’s efforts since 2016 to overturn the state’s retail blue law, said he’s “ecstatic” - and relieved - that the fight to remove the restriction on shopping for businesses and consumers is over.

“Some measure of it, of course, is happy that after that length of time it was able to happen,” Medenwald said.

“Some of it is maybe even a little of the dog catching the car syndrome. …. Now that I’ve finally caught the car, it’s just like, oh, wow, I can’t believe that I don’t have to be running around advocating for this anymore. It’s just amazing. It’s great,” he said.

Medenwald said North Dakota Open on Sundays may hold a shopping celebration on Aug. 4.

‘Time will tell’

Many area businesses, big and small, are still trying to determine their Sunday opening strategy.

The operators of West Acres Regional Shopping Center are still undecided on when to open.

“We’re going to do some research. If we make a change, it won’t be drastic,” said Alissa Adams, senior vice president of marketing and business development. “It will be a bit of time before we make a call on that.”

A very early start doesn’t appear likely, Adams said.

In fact, Brad Schlossman, CEO of West Acres Development, the owner and operator of the mall, told The Forum that he didn’t expect most stores to open before 11 a.m. on Sundays.

“Time will tell,” Schlossman said.

JCPenney General Manager Brianne Wilkening said she thinks the store will probably have its hours adjusted to fall in line with other stores in the region. For example, at the Roseville, Minn., and Sioux Falls stores, the doors open at 11 a.m.

A spokeswoman for Target, which has a large store just west of the West Acres mall, had no answers yet.

“We’re currently evaluating how expanded store hours could impact the guest experience at our four North Dakota stores, and don’t have any additional information to share at this time,” the spokeswoman said.

The Moorhead Target is open at 8 a.m. Sundays, as is the Watertown, S.D., store. Target stores in Woodbury, Minn., and Sioux Falls open at 7 a.m. on Sundays.

A supervisor at Fargo’s Kohl’s department store said Sunday hours are “a hot topic here and everyone’s talking about it,” but no word had been given to employees by the corporation.

Kohl’s stores in Sioux Falls and the Twin Cities suburbs of Bloomington and St. Louis Park list 9 a.m. as their Sunday opening times on their web pages.

An assistant manager for the Walmart on 13th Avenue South said no official update has filtered down to the store on future Sunday opening times, though that store is otherwise open 24 hours a day during the week.

Messages left for Scheels officials concerning future Sunday hours for the Scheels sporting goods store on 45th Street South and the Scheels Home and Hardware on 13th Avenue South were not returned.

However, Scheels stores elsewhere in the region do open before noon on Sundays. The Sioux Falls store opens at 10 a.m., while the Mankato, Minn., store opens at 11 a.m.

An overall positive

Melissa Rademacher, president and CEO of Fargo’s Downtown Community Partnership, says many members see the change in the law as an overall positive.

“It allows them to really run their business and have flexibility,” Radermacher said. “They like that."

Others will wait and see, Radermacher said.

Ashley Morken, owner of Unglued in downtown Fargo, doesn’t plan to change her Sunday opening from noon, for now, but she likes the freedom of being able to make a change if she wants.

“We do appreciate that the law was passed as a small retail business owner,” Morken said.

Greg Danz, co-owner of Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo, will stick with being open noon to 5 p.m. Sundays

“I think it mostly just comes down to habit. I guess I don’t see our customers needing to be here earlier,” Danz said.

The bigger problem is getting more downtown business owners to open on Sunday at all, Danz said.

The North Dakota Retailers Association got a win when the Supreme Court overturned a long-time precedent last year and ruled through South Dakota v. Wayfair that states could collect sales taxes for internet sales made in their states.

NDRA President Mike Rud said that victory got members to consider whether were hamstringing some members’ operations by not supporting the end of Sunday opening restrictions. For years, the group had taken a neutral stance on the issue.

“Obviously, it’s a contentious issue with a lot of our members. It always has been. But we decided it might be time to move forward with this,” Rud said.

Big Box retailers are excited, he said.

“I know a lot of the Big Box retailers talk about the Canadian folks who are waiting at their doors at 8 o’clock, who want to do some shopping before they take off at noon to head back to Canada,” Rud said. “So, we’ll see. Maybe it will be a huge plus for us.”

Change is good, Rud said. And ending Sunday closing could be a game changer.

“It continues to give business the freedom that they like. The less government interference, the better,” Rud said.