Looking back on the businesses the Fargo-Moorhead area lost in 2021
The Fargo-Moorhead area saw over 15 businesses permanently close their doors in 2021, from notable pizza joints to long-standing and well-loved shops.
FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead area has been no stranger to the lingering economic effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past year, at least 15 businesses permanently closed their doors. While some closed due to retirement of their owners, many more blamed the fallout of the pandemic.
Be it the crunch of an acute labor shortage, rising costs or general economic instability, the COVID-19 pandemic no doubt reared its ugly head for many of the businesses lost this past year.
From iconic pizza joints to well-loved small shops, you’ll find a sampling of the businesses which closed in the past year below. While InForum’s business reporters work hard covering their beat, this list may not be comprehensive. If you know of a business we missed which closed in the past year, or if you’re a business owner who closed up shop in 2021, please email email@example.com to be added to our list.
With its lease concluding at the end of January, the Talbots store inside West Acres Shopping Center closed its doors in January. The women’s fashion store was replaced by another popular women’s store, Sephora.
Another West Acres fixture, the Ice Point Thai ice cream shop closed inside the mall in February. Ice Point was replaced by Ginza Ramen & Poke.
Owners blamed Ice Point's demise on a chilly reception from cold-weather customers.
March saw the closing of a downtown Fargo staple, Red Silo.
Bobbi Jo and Todd Cody announced the closing via Facebook at the time, promising that Red Silo was “not going away, just restructuring for a new journey.”
The home decor store had occupied a space along Broadway since 2014.
The Village Inn located at 3140 25th St. S. in Fargo stopped dishing up their famous pies Monday, April 5. While the Moorhead location remained open, the Fargo restaurant was torn down and replaced by a Chase Bank.
F-M area hotels
At least seven metro area hotels temporarily or permanently stopped welcoming guests in 2021. The closures were due to the virus’s shake-down of the travel industry.
Those closings included the Quality Suites, Kelly Inn, Econo Lodge East, Econo Lodge West, Scandia Hotel, Red River Inn and Suites — all in Fargo — and a Howard Johnson in West Fargo.
“The hotel market has been depressed” through the pandemic, said Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The whole hospitality sector has been devastated by this.”
Still, with occupancy rates moving in the right direction, Johnson was optimistic the worst of the pandemic’s impact was in the rearview mirror.
While several businesses had COVID-19 to blame for their closure, Ivory Leathers at 901 Main Ave. in West Fargo, closed in June due to owner Ruth Schepp’s retirement.
Opened in 1992, Schepp decided it was time to call it quits on the storefront and move her leather repair business to her home. "Nobody ever came along with a suitcase full of money," she joked to InForum at the time of her attempts to sell the store.
While she closed the store to enjoy more free time, Schepp’s sewing machine won’t stop whirring away. "I really want to work less and enjoy some of my time," she said. "I'm going to have a nice, big sewing room in my house."
Duane’s House of Pizza
Located at 2223 Highway 10 E. in Moorhead, Duane’s House of Pizza stopped churning out pies for good in May.
The Moorhead institution dated back to 1959 but labor shortages proved to be the death knell for the pizza parlor.
Duane’s House of Pizza still carries on at two Fargo locations, located at 1629 University Drive S. and 4281 45th St. S.
“A city weeps,” eulogized InForum columnist Mike McFeely . “And so do hundreds of Spud, Dragon and Cobber ex-patriates who made it a point each year to stop into the fancy 'new' restaurant — has it been there for, like, 20 years now? — on Highway 10 East to relive their childhood or college days.”
After sitting dormant for quite a while, the Bully Brew near the North Dakota State University campus never got a pick-me-up.
Owner Sandi Luck told InForum the closure was largely COVID-19-related because the NDSU campus, normally a hive of activity, quieted down. “Sadly, the students, even if they had classes, they weren’t leaving their homes,” she said.
Luck said the shop was at one point only pulling in $100 per day, which wasn’t enough to carry through the pandemic. Still, she wouldn’t call the shop a failure. “The pandemic was hard on us,” she summarized.
The Tundra Grill
That certainly was brief.
After opening inside The Bowler on April 1 , The Tundra Grill announced via Facebook it had closed due to undisclosed legal issues June 15.
Ownership said at the time it had hoped to reopen in a new location.
Facing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, Twist announced its closure via Facebook Tuesday, June 22.
"With current labor challenges, supply chain challenges, and continually rising costs of ingredients and supplies, we have made the difficult decision as a company to focus our resources on our strongest businesses,” the post read. “We are reconsidering our approach at this location, and look forward to introducing a new concept to downtown Fargo soon.”
After a 20-year run, Cajun Cafe owners Mary and Gary Gilbertson called it quits in June.
Despite the fact that business had not slowed down, the Gilbertson’s opted to leave the slog of the restaurant industry because they struggled to find reliable employees. "Truthfully, we’re busier than ever. But help not coming to work, and help that has the license to not listen to you," led to him picking up the pieces, he said. “Being at my age, you know … that’s pretty tough on a guy.”
Customers shared fond memories of the Cajun Cafe in the comments section of a post announcing the closure, while Gilbertson looked back positively on the job. “We're blessed over here. We do this with a smile. It’s not a bad deal. It is just what it is today,” he said.
Ole and Lena’s
Another popular pizza shop, West Fargo’s Ole and Lena’s, closed at the end of July. Owners John and Linda Long said the closing was due to their lease not being renewed.
The Longs were blindsided by the closure, with John reporting to InForum he had been working since April to get an answer on the status of their lease. "We've done a lot of hard work. That's what hurts. We went through the tough times,” he said.
The Longs parlayed their long-standing status as customers of Ole and Lena’s into eventually owning the shop, purchasing it in 2019.
John told InForum he had faith a new opportunity would come along. "It's in God's hands right now," he said. "He's got another plan for me if it doesn't work."
Staffing shortages were once again to blame when the Taco John’s located at 110 Main Ave. E. in West Fargo closed in July. “Due to lack of staffing, this location is closed,” a sign posted to the door read.
The location had been open for nearly 50 years.
Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm
The Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm went quiet in March 2020 when COVID-19 first struck the area. Over a year later, the pandemic was to blame for the museum’s slow downfall.
Yvette Nasset, who had been the executive director of the museum, tried to persevere, however several waves of the pandemic proved too much to overcome.
The Children’s Museum played host to many events since it opened in 1989, including hosting future President Barack Obama in 2008.
One of the more shocking closings of the year came in November, when the last of the Fargo-Moorhead area’s Happy Joe’s closed.
After 45 years in the business, Mike and Cheryl Post abruptly closed the last Happy Joe’s standing, located at 2511 S. University Drive. “We have owned and ran the Happy Joe’s in South Fargo for 45 years and it has truly been magical,” the Posts stated via news release. “It has been our honor and privilege to know you and serve you over the past four and a half decades.”
The Post’s franchise is being sold in the hopes a new franchisee will take over and reboot the brand in the metro area.
Hundreds of comments poured in via Facebook to bid farewell to the Fargo icon.
InForum sports reporter Jeff Kolpack also chimed in with his memories of working at Happy Joe’s.
“I set the company record in 1983 for fastest distribution of pepperonis on a large pizza, never challenged since,” Kolpack recalled.
Corrine Stefanson, owner of Moorhead Center Mall staple The Classic, announced in November she would be closing the book on her career in retail.
The Classic was one of the mall’s first stores and in 1973 Stefanson decided to buy out the other four owners. She’s been the sole proprietor ever since. “I love my work, but …. I’ve been putting it off two or three years. I really didn’t wish to quit,” she said. “But I think it’s a good decision for my family and myself.”
Stefanson’s 48 year career in retail included plenty of trips to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Even as online shopping squeezed her business, she still maintained an army of loyal customers. “The community has been really good to me and I love all my work and I love all the challenges,” Stefanson said. “I’ve been lucky.”
After announcing a temporary closure in November , Famous Dave’s permanently closed its doors just weeks later.
No reason was given for the closure, though other Famous Dave’s locations in Bismarck and Williston remain open.
Section 9 Cyber Cafe
After 12 years in business as a video gaming haven, Section 9 permanently ceased operations Thursday, Dec. 23.
The closing was announced via Facebook, though a reason for the closing was not provided.