CJ's Kitchen, a popular south Fargo diner, will be closing for good

The last full day of business for the homestyle restaurant will be Oct. 16, co-owner Jan Ness says.

CJ's Kitchen, 1601 S. University Drive, Fargo, is seen Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Co-owner Jan Ness says the restaurant is closing, with its last full day of business being Oct. 16.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum
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FARGO - CJ’s Kitchen, a popular south Fargo diner, is closing.

The last full day of business for the homestyle eatery at 1601 S. University Drive will be Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, less than two weeks from now, said Jan Ness, who co-owns CJ’s with her husband, Curt.

“They (the building leaseholder) didn’t give us any time,” Jan Ness said Sunday, Oct. 2, adding that the news came just over a week ago. “They need this building, supposedly.”

Ness has scoured the area’s commercial listings to see if there was another place to move the restaurant to keep the business going.“There is nothing out there that we can afford,” Ness said.

Available restaurant spaces are either too big or too small for the operation, which celebrated its 11th anniversary earlier this year, Ness said.


The restaurant has, like other’s, also been chronically short-handed and keeps things going with a handful of employees, she said.

“I was not ready” to stop working, Ness said. “My husband, on the other hand, is retiring.”

The concept started in 2013 and has grown to 27 locations, mostly in the South, Southwest and along the Eastern Seaboard.

The restaurant’s assets will be auctioned off. She said things are too busy to plan a goodbye event.

“We’re so busy, we’re just going to feed people like normal,” Ness said.

The building got its start as a Pizza Hut, then later became home to a Starbuck’s coffee shop (which closed in 2008 as part of a 600-store shutdown by the coffee giant in the U.S.). Fargo Coffee Co. opened there in early 2009, later closing and giving way to CJ’s, which opened on May 16, 2011.

In March of this year, Craig Development of Fargo announced that it was planning to tear down the South Plaza Mall and 10 rental homes behind it on the west side of the block, and replace the structures with a $30 million mixed-use building.

At that time, Jesse Craig said he had signed a purchase agreement to take ownership of the strip mall, which is home to about a dozen businesses including Duane's House of Pizza, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, a Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, and CJ's Kitchen.

Craig said the planned new structure would have underground parking, 27,000 square feet of commercial space on the main floor, and likely 86 to 104 apartments on the upper levels.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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