And the survey says: Casselton can support a grocery store

After receiving more than 650 completed surveys and reviewing results during a community conversation held last week, Casselton Economic Development Director Adrienne Olson said one thing was made resoundingly clear: those surveyed not only want their own grocery store as a matter of convenience, but also because they want to support their own community by purchasing groceries locally.
The survey, conducted by an outside consulting firm and paid for using state grant funds, generated useful information that will now be used to complete a marketing presentation and work to get it into the hands of decision makers within the grocery industry. The presentation will be designed to attract potential grocery store developers to the community.
Survey results supported what Olson and her predecessor Melissa Beach, along with the survey consulting firm all suspected: Casselton can definitely support a grocery store.
“Casselton has a great population base for it. We are at 2,600 and growing. We have new employers coming in, we have new developments, the school is growing so those are all good things to try to attract the grocery store,” Olson said. “The marketing materials currently being created will reflect the study results, the demographics and the growth in Casselton as well as all the reasons that we think a grocery store would be successful here,” Olson said.
The economic developer doesn’t anticipate it will be difficult getting the information into the right hands as many community connections exist grocery operators.
“I’ve had a lot of folks reach out and share that with me and offer to help set up meetings. So I don’t think that’s a hard hurdle.”
What may be more of a challenge further down the road is choosing a location for a potential grocer. Location was one of the areas discussed during the Casselton Connect event held last week.
“There’s a lot of different opinions on where the best location would be and I think our consultant answered it best. He said that’s really up to the grocery store to decide. We’ll show them sites that we know of in all areas and they’ll have to decide what they think is the best.”
In the past, Casselton’s only grocery store was about 5,000 square feet. According to Olson, the survey consultant confirmed that a 20,000 to 30,000 square foot grocery store would be ideal.
Armed with about a dozen potential grocer names, Olson will be trying to get meetings with them in order to show them the city’s presentation and invite them to Casselton for a tour. The hope is to meet with all the potential operators during the month of March.
“These aren’t cold calls,” Olson said. “There are grocers who know we are looking for a store in Casselton.”
In the meantime, Olson said community conversations continue to include gratitude for the businesses who have stepped up to meet consumer needs.
There is a segment of the population who can not or does not want to shop in Fargo. Olson said this means a lot of people are shopping for groceries in Casselton.
“We’ve got some great local businesses that have stepped up. Gordy’s has some produce, Petro Serve has fresh food, Dollar General is trying to get some fresh food in so, we do have food available, just not all in one place.”
The bottom line is, businesses are trying to meet the need, but as growth continues, local businesses will not be able to meet the growing demand. Olson said during the Community Conversation it was mentioned that perhaps one of the convenience stores would consider expanding their grocery offerings.
“That would be up to them, if they wanted to go into the grocery business. They’re not really, at their core, grocery stores,” she said.
Ultimately, Olson said the community conversation was very positive, even on an evening with blizzard conditions, residents stuck around after the presentation and engaged in conversation for an additional 40 minutes.
“There was just a general sense of excitement about where Casselton is going. I have a very positive feeling about a grocery store, mainly because our consultant is very confident and said many times that he thinks Casselton can definitely support a grocery store and he has a lot of experience. We’re not the only community he has worked in to help establish food systems.”

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