Bowdon, ND – North Dakota has a desert problem, more specifically a food desert problem.
Since 2014, North Dakota towns with less then 21-hundred people, 137 rural grocery stores have closed or are no longer full service stores.
And that’s a major problem, because the more stores that close, the further people have to drive to get basic items such as bread and milk.
Here in Bowdon the next closest grocery store is 12 miles to the West, 20 miles to the north or 30 miles to the east. And while that may be OK now, it’s a major problem when a foot of snow is covering the road.
Bowdon has tried a unique option in the hopes of keeping it’s local grocery store open, they’ve opened a thrift shop with funds going toward the grocery store, Patti Patrie volunteers at the store.
“I figured out that we’ve spent about three thousand dollars a year as a donation from the thrift store that goes over the grocery store,” said Patrie.
But even that may not be enough. Larry Crowder is the Chairman of the Bowdon Grocery Store Board and tells KX News the store is crucial to the survival of the town…
“I hate to think about it, just driving up and down the road with the little towns that have lost their store, pretty soon the whole main street is gone I think, so I would worry, I think the cafe has told us if we close, they’ll close, and I think it would be a domino effect”, said Crowder
Even young shoppers want the store to remain open.
“My family and I would be really disappointed because it’s a small town and it’s one of the few businesses we have, so it really means a lot to our town,” said young shopper Madison Jones.
While the North Dakota Interim Commerce Committee is currently studying ways to address and potentially fix the problem, it may be too little too late for dozens of stores across the state that are already feeling the financial pinch, plus competition from Big Box stores in larger cities across the state.
Officials with the North Dakota Rural Electric & Telecommunications department tell me over 50 percent of rural stores have a sales volume of $20,000 per week or less, which is not enough volume to get price discounts from major food suppliers.