Economic leaders try to bring grocery store back to tiny North Dakota town
It’s not the first time the Drayton Economic Development Corp. has stepped in to try to save a local necessity in Drayton, North Dakota.
DRAYTON, N.D. — Plans to bring a new grocery store to Drayton, North Dakota, may be prompting some deja vu.
After J&D’s Riverside Market in Drayton closed at the end of November 2022, the Drayton Economic Development Corp. bought the building with plans to renovate it and rent it to a new grocery store.
Pete Anderson, a member of the economic development board and president of KodaBank, said having a grocery store is imperative for the town of 757 in Pembina County in far northeast North Dakota.
“A grocery store is a lot like a school — if you don’t have a school, you don’t have a town,” Anderson said.
It’s not the first time the development corporation has stepped in to try to save a local necessity in Drayton. In 2012, the economic development arm of the city completed a similar project to draw a restaurant back to Drayton. After the town’s only restaurant closed in fall 2011, the city purchased a building, renovated it and rented it to a restaurant.
That building is also home to a clinic, fitness center, Valley News and Views newspaper, drugstore and other businesses.
“City economic development owns that building and leases it back to the tenants at reasonable rates to attract businesses,” he said. “This will be the same thing — it’s just a different building.”
Anderson said the Drayton Economic Development Corp. is in the early stages of deciding how to renovate the grocery store, but has hired a manager for the store and hopes to finish renovations by late spring.
In the meantime, residents have to travel to other towns for groceries — the nearest is in Grafton, 22 miles away.
“Certain things we take for granted — being able to run uptown and buy a can of soup or an onion or something like that,” said Chip Olson, mayor of Drayton. “You just take that for granted and we don’t have that option anymore.”
Convenience stores in Drayton carry some necessities, such as eggs and milk, but do not have everything.
“You can’t go up there and buy a pound of hamburger,” Olson said.
The closure of J&D’s Riverview Market was announced on the business’s Facebook page on Nov. 7.
“We have spent the last eight years striving to keep fresh products and pantry staples in our community. However, because of a season of equipment replacement, product loss, staffing shortage, and health issues, we have exhausted our ability to keep this store going financially and physically. Decreasing daily sales are not enough to cover our expenses, much less the continually rising food and supply costs,” the post reads.
Additionally, the post said the owners had been searching for a buyer for three years without success.
“If we would have had an outside party that was interested, we sure would have stepped aside and let that happen,” Anderson said. “The decision was grocery store or no grocery store.”
Anderson estimates the grocery store building dates back to the 1960s, when a previous grocery store burned down.
“It’s had limited renovations since it was built,” he said.
While the extent of needed renovations is still unknown, the development corporation is initially looking at painting the interior of the building and installing new flooring, freezers and ceiling, he said.
The purchase and renovation of the restaurant building was paid for with $250,000 awarded by FEMA after the 1997 flood. Anderson said grocery store renovations will be funded by Drayton’s sales tax.