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Property purchased for store

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Property purchased for store

Brian Baldwin serves on the Lidgerwood committee overseeing the grocery store project.

The committee tasked with establishing a grocery store in Lidgerwood didn’t expect it to take more than a few months to propose definitive plans.

Members thought late spring would be more than enough time to determine how this southeastern North Dakota city will regain its grocery store after Lidgerwood Market suffered a catastrophic fire Nov. 29, 2018, said Brian Baldwin, who serves on the grocery store committee made up largely of the Lidgerwood Community Development Corporation.

It has taken longer than expected, but the committee finally has an end game. It will hold a public information meeting at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 to present plans. Needing community support — financial support — the committee will talk about how much building a new store is expected to cost, among other things, Baldwin said.

Committee sees success

The timeline was delayed because roadblocks surfaced after the Lidgerwood Market fire, Baldwin said.

First, the committee waited to determine Market owner Rick Ell’s plans. It defeats the purpose to have two grocery stores, Baldwin said, so with Ell telling employees he planned to rebuild, the committee was in wait-and-see mode. When it became apparent Ell wasn’t going to launch a new store here, the committee began looking for a new location since the idea of renovating a burned building more than 80 years old didn’t hold any appeal, Baldwin said. There also wasn’t another location on Wiley Avenue to build without doing demolition work. The committee even looked at creating a grocery store and hardware store combination at the existing Popp Hardware building.

With a few options under consideration, everything kept coming back to location, age of building, expense and parking, Baldwin said.

Things changed for the committee when Ell had Lidgerwood Market torn down July 16, so the CDC entered into negotiations to acquire this property. That stalled when Ell filed for personal bankruptcy, a matter that was cleared up in late September. As of Oct. 1, the CDC bought the property to build a new market atop the ashes of the old store.

“We either needed to build new or renovate and (Lidgerwood Market’s burned building) wasn’t really an option to renovate. How would you get everyone to support that. ‘Hey, let’s chip in our money and buy this dilapidated building?’” Baldwin asked.

Looking ahead

The best option to date is for the CDC to own the grocery store’s real estate and partner with someone to lease the facility. An owner/operator onsite offers the best chance of success, Baldwin said.

Barring that, another committee may need to be formed to oversee the store’s daily operations, he said.

Running small-town grocery stores is not easy. Forman Market closed in June, while the Claire City, South Dakota, grocery store and cafe combination is struggling to stay open, Baldwin said.

On the flip side, that also means the Lidgerwood grocery store will have a larger trade area since fewer grocery stores are open west of the city, he said.

When Lidgerwood Market went down in flames almost a year ago, plans became immediate for residents here to band together and establish a grocery store.

“If something doesn’t happen here, you can turn the key on the town. It’s that drastic,” said Weldon Hoesel, president of the Lidgerwood CDC, earlier.

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