Casselton will likely see town's only grocery store, Wangler Foods, close
Fred Wangler has a buyer for his building and he's ready to downsize. The City Council takes up a conditional use permit needed for the sale Monday.
CASSELTON, N.D. — Casselton is on the cusp of losing its only grocery store.
Fred Wangler, the owner of Wangler Foods, is looking to downsize his holdings and has an offer for the building at 826 Front St.
All he needs is for the City Council to approve a conditional use permit for the buyer - a computer and information technology firm - and the sale can go through, he said Friday, Feb. 4.
Wangler said the big grocery stores in nearby Fargo-Moorhead make it tough for a small-town store - even a full-service store - to compete.
“There’s always competition and Casselton is a bedroom community so most of the people work in Fargo and do their shopping in Fargo before they come home,” Wangler said.
The conditional use permit was unanimously approved by the city’s planning and zoning committee on Wednesday, Feb 2, committee Chairman Ed McConnell said.
Casselton requires a conditional use permit in the downtown district anytime a building changes owners or uses, McConnell said.
Final approval of the conditional use permit would have to come from the City Council, which takes up the issue Monday night, Feb. 7.
“We have a dollar store (Dollar General) and a convenience store. We’ll still be able to get milk and bread, but (the situation is) not good,” McConnell said. “Unfortunately, it’s the end of the store … I understand when he gets the inventory run down, he’ll move the rest to the other stores and then he’ll be gone.”
McConnell said he hopes the town can come up with a way to attract another grocer.
Mayor Lee Anderson said Wangler has been trying to sell the business or the building for several years.
But having one grocery store in Casselton has deterred other grocers from opening in town because the market isn't big enough to support two stores, Anderson said.
“Perhaps now they will take another look at Casselton,” Anderson said.
Still, a problem is Casselton’s proximity to Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo - just 15 to 20 minutes away - with their large grocery stores and warehouse markets. Residents used Wanglers as more of a convenience store than a prime grocery store, Anderson said. Plus, Dollar General cuts into Wangler’s sales, too, he said.
“Grocery stores are expected to be bigger and fancier (now) and this store is limited in square footage. Space wise, it was a great store 40 years ago. … Just the way it goes nowadays,” Anderson said.
Wangler at one point ran six grocery stores in the region. If the Casselton sale goes through, he’ll be down to stores in McVille and Tolna, he said.
He’s ready to cut back, but it’s not easy.
“It does leave me sad because we have a lot of loyal customers in that community that have supported me since 2005 when I bought it. And I have an excellent employee base right now. That’s the biggest problem, closing a store when I have such good employees,” he said.