For the first time in state history, North Dakota residents were given the option to shop on Sunday morning, marking the end of an era for the statewide blue laws that were repealed in March and went into effect Aug. 1.
Several businesses took advantage of the opportunity throughout Jamestown. On Aug. 4, North Dakota residents ventured to shopping centers on a Sunday morning for the very first time.
"We had really good traffic," said J.D. Backhaus, general manager of Menards. "People were definitely excited to have the freedom to shop, you could tell."
Menards opened its doors at 8 a.m., but it wasn't the only business opening before noon.
"We opened at 10," said Robert Hallberg, general manager at Home of Economy located in the Buffalo Mall. But unlike Menards, Hallberg didn't see heavy traffic until around the old opening time, about noon.
"We had a few people in here from 10 to 12," Hallberg said. "We're normally pretty busy on Sundays."
Two customers purchased goods from Home of Economy between 10 and 11 a.m., according to Hallberg. From 11 a.m. to noon, 12 customers left with merchandise.
Blue laws had been in the state's century code since President Benjamin Harrison granted North Dakota statehood in 1889 and originally restricted all businesses from operating between 12 a.m. Sunday to 12 a.m. Monday. The law has been a topic for debate for decades in the state's capital.
"The debate crossed party lines, instead fostering a rural-urban split," an Inforum article from 2011 said. "Constituents of the former feared Sunday openings would kill small-town businesses and erode family values; constituents of the latter wanted a chance to compete for Sunday shoppers with open stores just across the Minnesota border. "
In 1991, a major change to the law was introduced to the state, allowing businesses to open at noon on Sunday. Still, stipulations with the law remained ambiguous and inconsistent, allowing the purchase of eggs and milk but not a rubber spatula from the same store.
On March 25, 2019, Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill officially ending blue laws and placing the responsibility of whether or not to open on Sunday morning on the business.
“This legislation supports freedom, fairness and local control,” Burgum said, according to an article by the Bismarck Tribune. “We trust retailers to decide when it’s best to open or not open their businesses, and we trust families and consumers to determine how best to spend their time.”
Not all businesses in Jamestown were as welcome to the changes as others.
Stores that remained closed through Sunday morning included Verizon Wireless, Dunham's Sports and Christopher & Banks. All three declined to comment.
Walmart adjusted its hours to reflect the new changes to the law, making the store open 24 hours a day for all seven days of the week. Corporate officials for Walmart did not a return a request for comment.
"I'm sure moving forward we'll see an increase," Hallberg said. "People getting out of church like to come in and shop for what they need."
"Give it time to let people get used to it."
Mike Friesen, store manager at Tractor Supply Company, had a similar sentiment.
"We only did about $800 in sales (before noon)," Friesen said. "I think it'll be better when people get used to the idea of it."
Backhaus agreed, saying the whole state would need time to adjust.
"It'll take a bit of time for people to warm up to it," Backhaus said. "It was kind of just a way of life here."