FARGO - West Acres mall walkers will soon have some company on Sunday mornings: shoppers.

North Dakota stores will no longer be restricted on when they can open on Sundays starting in August. When the first Sunday, Aug. 4., rolls around, many mall merchants, including longtime mall anchor JC Penney, will be opening at 11 a.m., said Alissa Adams, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development.

Some stores can choose to open earlier. For example, mall anchor Best Buy will open at 10 a.m., an employee confirmed Thursday.

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“We think that the 11 a.m. hour is an opening time that will be productive for our stores and also convenient for our shoppers,” Adams said Wednesday, July 24. “We’ll continue to evaluate hours and see if it (demand) warrants an earlier opening, but for now we’re starting with 11 a.m.

Some of the food court businesses are already open at 11 a.m., she added.

“It’s an opening time that is common for mall tenants across the country on a Sunday,” Adams said.

Property Manager Chris Heaton thinks the change will be good.

“I think people will be looking forward to it,” Heaton said Wednesday.

Starting earlier will depend on the numbers of shoppers, he said.

“We’ll keep an eye on things. We never rule anything out,” Heaton said.

Fixing to open early

FARGO - Do it yourselfers will have a few more hours to get their supplies shopped before they git ‘er done once August rolls around and North Dakota’s Sunday closing blue law is tossed in the dustbin at the start of August.

Big toolbox stores Menards in West Fargo and Lowe’s, Fleet Farm and Home Depot in Fargo have all committed to opening at 8 a.m. on Sundays beginning Aug. 4, managers said Thursday, June 25. All of them said it was a typical opening time for their chains.

Bulk buyers can also stock up sooner. Warehouse stores Sam’s Club and Costco will both open at 10 a.m. on Sundays, employees confirmed.

Fargo’s Walmart stores will be open 24/7 on Sundays, said Orlando Washington, the manager of the Walmart Supercenter on 13th Avenue South.

“Oh, yeah, we can’t wait,” Washington said Thursday.

A Target spokesperson said on July 10 that it would open its stores at 7 a.m. on Sundays in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck. The Minot store will open an hour later.

Kohl’s in Fargo will open at 9 a.m. on Sundays.

“That’s the start time of all of our regular stores. We do have different store hours for some of our outliers,” Store Manager. Rochelle Rehm said. “We’re very excited for it.”

Scheels All Sports on 45th Street South will open at 11 a.m. on Sundays, Assistant Store Leader. Brandon Moser said Wednesday.

Sally Loeffler, owner of downtown Fargo's Beyond Running and Outermost Layer stores, said Wednesday, July 24, 2019, that she will likely open her shops at 10 a.m. on Sundays once North Dakota's Sunday shopping hours restrictions end in August. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)
Sally Loeffler, owner of downtown Fargo's Beyond Running and Outermost Layer stores, said Wednesday, July 24, 2019, that she will likely open her shops at 10 a.m. on Sundays once North Dakota's Sunday shopping hours restrictions end in August. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

‘Hopefully, people embrace it’

FARGO - Getting an early start on Sunday shopping in Fargo's downtown will be a hit and miss proposition for awhile.

One of the first retailers to commit is Sally Loeffler, owner of the Beyond Running and Outermost Layer on North Broadway.

On Wednesday, July 24, she said she figured she would open about 10 a.m.

“There’s a lot of people downtown Sunday mornings,” Loeffler said. “Sundays are typically our biggest days, dollars for hours.”

After all, it’s the day of the week most people have the time to shop, she said.

“We’re certainly excited” to be able to open, Loeffler said. “Hopefully, people embrace it.”

A block away, Zandbroz Variety store manager Josie Danz, says the store will stick with its regular noon to 5 p.m. Sunday hours - for now.

“So far, we don’t have any plans to open earlier on Sunday.s That may change eventually” or perhaps for holidays, Danz said.

“If we see a need for it, it will be great to have that option to be open on Sundays,” Danz said.

Ashley Morken, owner of the Unglued shop, said Wednesday that she may eventually consider earlier hours than her current noon to 4 p.m., but “not right away.”

Morken said it took awhile to get people to spend some of their Sunday afternoons shopping downtown. She’ll wait to see how well people adapt to earlier hours elsewhere in the city.

Stabo Scandinavian Imports is sticking with noon to 4 p.m. Boots and Heels is also sticking with noon to 4 p.m. for now, though the store could shift to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., owner Amber Sander said.

Fargo businessman Brandon Medenwald, one of the leaders of efforts to end North Dakota's restrictions on Sunday retail opening times,  said Wednesday, July 24, that he looks forward to having the choice of being able to shop Sunday mornings once August arrives. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)
Fargo businessman Brandon Medenwald, one of the leaders of efforts to end North Dakota's restrictions on Sunday retail opening times, said Wednesday, July 24, that he looks forward to having the choice of being able to shop Sunday mornings once August arrives. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Freedom to choose

Fargo businessman Brandon Medenwald has led efforts since 2016 to try to convince lawmakers to reverse North Dakota’s restrictions on Sunday opening.

Now, he’s going to do some shopping.

“I’m glad that the time has finally come,” Medenwald said Wednesday, July 24.

“It’s almost a pinch myself I’m dreaming moment. I’m incredibly excited here,” Medenwald said.

“I will absolutely be shopping on the first Sunday morning, just to say that I’ve done it. And then after that, I probably won’t do it again for the rest of the year. But I will do it on the first Sunday just because it will be possible for the first time since we’ve been a state,” he said.

Medenwald said the freedom to choose is important..

“Our goal was to never to make sure that every business was actually be open on Sunday. Our goal was just to let the ones that wanted to, have the option to do so if they choose,” he said.

“If people decide to stay home on Sunday mornings and not shop, that’s great. If stores decide to stay closed. That’s great. It was just about having those options. That’s what we fought for very hard for,” Medenwald said.

Shoppers walk the main hall of Fargo's West Acres with their purchases Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Many of the mall's stores will open at 11 a.m. on Sundays starting in August. (David Samson / The Forum)
Shoppers walk the main hall of Fargo's West Acres with their purchases Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Many of the mall's stores will open at 11 a.m. on Sundays starting in August. (David Samson / The Forum)

A long grind to shop

In March of this year, Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law the bill to end Sunday closing restrictions, saying it would help North Dakota stores compete with online retailers and stores in bordering states.

Under state law, it has been 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 fight for unrestricted Sunday opening has been a decades-long grind.

Lawmakers made North Dakota the last state to permit Sunday shopping in 1991 by allowing it after noon.

Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, championed the successful effort to roll back Sunday restrictions. Still, the issue divided lawmakers who leaned on religious arguments and those who saw the ban as an intrusion on free enterprise.

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.

A job generator

Retail accounts for 11.2 percent of all jobs in North Dakota and the outlook for the sector is growth. According to North Dakota Job Service Labor Market Information and Infogroup of Omaha, Neb., there are 5,047 employers in retail trade.

-- Cass County has 1,064 employers in retail trade

-- Burleigh County has 638

-- Grand Forks County has 434

-- Ward County has 442

-- Morton County has 179

-- Stark County has 225

-- Williams County has 289

-- Richland County has 107

-- Stutsman County has 118

-- Ramsey County has 115

Workin’ for a living

It’s estimated that there were 49,220 people employed in the retail sector in 2016. That is projected to grow 4.4 percent to 51,405 by 2026.



Shoppers walk by a shop in Fargo's West Acres on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Many of the mall's stores will open at 11 a.m. on Sundays starting in August. (David Samson / The Forum)
Shoppers walk by a shop in Fargo's West Acres on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Many of the mall's stores will open at 11 a.m. on Sundays starting in August. (David Samson / The Forum)

Retail employees by county

Number of retail employees by county, fourth quarter estimate for 2018

Cass County 13,210

Burleigh County 7,385

Grand Forks County 5,993

Ward County 5,088

Williams County 2,310

Stark County 2,033

Stutsman County 1,390

Morton County 1,292

Ramsey County 918

Richland County 726

Average weekly wage in retail

The average weekly wage in retail in North Dakota is $623. Over a 40-hour workweek, that is $15.58 per hour or just over $32,400 per year. (Fourth quarter of 2018)

Average weekly wages for select counties, fourth quarter of 2018

-- Burke County $921

-- Steele County $808

-- Williams County $786

-- Morton County $782

-- Cavalier County $759

-- Stark County $731

-- Burleigh County $654

-- Cass County $612

-- Grand Forks $592

-- Stutsman County $587

Who’s working where?

Distribution of occupations in the retail sector: 2016 estimates

Retail salespeople 11,544

Cashiers 8,255

Stock clerks, order fillers 3,989

First-line supervisors in retail 3,413

Laborers and freight, stock

And material movers 1,691

Auto service tech, mechanics 1,249

All food prep, serving workers 1,191

General, operations managers 966

Customer service representatives 871

Parts salespersons 835