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North Dakota’s rural grocery stores continue operating through supply shortages

Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 8:23 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Grocery stores are the lifeline of small communities around the state, some stores are worried about keeping items on shelves.

The city of Hague has a population of about 65 people. Its grocery store is the only one for miles around.

“It’s definitely a big part of the community here in Hague,” said a store customer.

Janell Knoepfle manages the store and says paying higher supply costs compared to big box stores adds extra challenges.

“Chicken is getting into short supply. We’re getting limited as to how many boxes of chicken we can buy in a week,” said Knoepfle.

She said she does her best to keep customers’ orders on the shelves. Recently, unemployment and few trucks are further complicating supply chains.

“We really need people to go back to work,” said Knoepfle.

However, for the first time in years, the grocery store has a helper. 10-year-old Kaitlynn Baumgartner asked to help out this summer.

“It’s really fun here. A lot of people are really nice and they’re just like: ‘You helping today?’ and I’m like: ‘Yup!’,” said Baumgartner.

According to the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, from 2014 to 2019, more than 28 percent of stores in communities smaller than 21-hundred people closed down. Even though prices have gone up for now, Knoepfle said it’s still better to shop local.

“When you’re considering the price of gas and you won’t have to drive out of town in the longrun and plus the time you’re wasting going to Bismarck, it’s a lot better to stop by here,” said Knoepfle.

For now, customers said they’re happy paying a little extra at the store. Lawmakers are finalizing studies on how to keep rural grocery stores running.

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