Ellen Huber: Yes, you can buy socks in Mandan
With Mandan’s desire for more retail options, a saying has circulated around town in recent years. “You can’t even buy socks in Mandan.” The truth is that you CAN buy socks in Mandan. At least five stores sell socks. The largest selections of men’s, women’s and children’s socks including work, sport and dress styles are available at Family Dollar and A Buck or So. Other sources include, but may not be limited to, Thrift White Drug, Runnings Farm and Fleet and The Dollar Store.
The point of this week’s column is not so much to provide you with sock shopping options; rather, it is to discuss a problem in our community. Too many shopping dollars expended by Mandan residents leak to Bismarck and beyond.
In an informal poll posted during May on the city of Mandan website, 75 percent of 122 respondents indicated they spend less than 25 percent of their total shopping dollars at Mandan businesses. Seventeen percent indicated spending between 26 percent and 50 percent of their shopping dollars in Mandan, 5 percent chose 51 percent to 75 percent, and only 3 percent indicated they spend 76 percent or more of their shopping dollars in Mandan.
At the same time, many Mandan businesses report the loyalty of the Mandan customer as one of the major strengths of doing business here. Are these two findings a paradox or can they co-exist? Maybe it means that once a business wins the patronage of the local market, it sticks. But winning that patronage for a new business can sometimes be challenging.
Mandan’s shopping percentages need improving. It is not realistic to expect that anyone buy 100 percent of their goods and services in their hometown, but a higher average would help. When you shop in Mandan, it creates demand for more businesses here and it boosts local sales tax revenue, thus allowing property tax and special assessment reductions. Forty percent of sales tax revenue has historically been used to reduce property tax, 27 percent for street, water and sewer improvements and 4 percent for municipal debt reduction.
Please consider looking in Mandan first for items and services as possible and feasible. I realize convenience and one-stop shopping are among major reasons for why we choose to shop where we do. Access to information on what a business offers or where you can find things eliminates guesswork and extra stops.
Access to hardware items and the desire for a hardware store is a common concern brought up by residents. The city of Mandan and the Bismarck Mandan Development Association are currently visiting with two hardware groups. Each agrees the Mandan market offers great potential. Recommended store size ranges from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet. The main hurdle is finding someone willing to invest in being the storeowner. Forming a local investment group may be a solution.
Meanwhile, many of the items you would find in a hardware store are available at several existing stores. These include Cenex, Fastenal, ProBuild, Marshall Lumber, Runnings and Family Dollar. A wide variety of lawn mowers and snowblowers can usually be found at the farm implement dealers.
A business directory is downloadable from www.cityofmandan.com and copies are available at Mandan City Hall. The Mandan City Commission at its June 15 meeting approved a proposal for a more user-friendly, online directory that allows searches by category along with access to business-specific information such as coupons, menus, job postings and more. This new directory will be available with the launch of a new city website planned to occur by Aug. 1. The online directory should be useful to both residents and visitors.
For more information, call the City of Mandan Business Development Office, phone 667-3485.