Mandan News

Ellen Huber: Mandan faces ‘catch 22’ in recruiting discount merchandisers

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I recently received a letter from a Mandan resident expressing anger and frustration that our community does not have a Pamida or ALCO store. After all, Pamida stores can be found in much smaller towns in North Dakota including Beulah, Rugby, Bottineau, Valley City, Grafton and Cavalier. ALCO stores are in Bowman, Carrington, Grafton, Hazen, Landon, Lisbon, New Town, Oakes and Rolla. ALCO’s affiliate store, Duckwall, also has a location in Hettinger.

This week’s column is based on the response I sent to the inquiring resident.

I and other representatives of Mandan have asked Pamida and ALCO to locate stores in Mandan. Both entities have a policy of not locating in areas within 20 to 30 minutes driving time of a Walmart.

Pamida Vice President of Property Development Mike Murley stated in an email communication in July, “The real issue in Mandan, besides the pharmacy ownership issue, is the fact that there are two Walmarts in Bismarck that are within 15 miles of Mandan. We typically don’t locate in markets that are closer than 20 miles from the nearest Walmart.”

Kevin Christianson, a native of Mandan now residing in Fargo, of Property Resource Group, is the developer of ALCO stores in North Dakota and the surrounding region. He indicated in 2008 that his concern about building for an ALCO in Mandan would be that upon the store’s success, Walmart would likely notice this success and open a store next door. He, in turn, could be left with an empty building. He was not willing to take the risk.

These policies and concerns puts Mandan in a real “catch 22” situation, seemingly being not big enough or isolated enough from a larger metro market for a Walmart, Target or Kmart; yet, too close to the Walmart stores in Bismarck to attract a Pamida or ALCO store.

Mayor Tim Helbing and I are trying to convince these stores to give Mandan a chance. The Bismarck Mandan Development Association continues to make contacts on our behalf as well. We all remain hopeful that one of these companies will recognize and capitalize on Mandan’s market potential. No responses to our latest communication attempts have been received to date.

Given the nation’s economic woes in the latter half of 2008 and throughout 2009, few national retailers have been willing to consider new store locations. The outlook will brighten and we are positioning Mandan for that day with a continual recruitment effort. It’s an on-going and long-term process.

With approximately 500 businesses in Mandan including roughly 200 retail-oriented and 100-service sector businesses, we are fortunate to have in Mandan most of the products and services we need. Yes, we can buy socks in Mandan. But, we don’t have everything that we want. We’ll continue to work on improvement! Persistence will ultimately pay off.

If you have a connection to someone who works in corporate management for a major retailer, please tell us and we will contact them. Just call 667-3485.