As the third generation in a longstanding family business, Casey Stoudt has picked up on a few things.

Like the importance of shopping locally.

"It's one of those things that you don't identify the importance of often until it's too late," said Stoudt, owner of R.M. Stoudt. "When we lose a hardware store or a shoe repair shop - the day before we lost it we maybe weren't super conscious of how important we are as the customer that keeps that store open.

"But the day after or the month after or the year after - when you can't get your shoes fixed or you can't buy a suit all of a sudden it becomes clear how important shopping locally really was."

Stoudt's grandfather opened the local Ford dealership in March of 1941.

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"We've been fortunate to be in a business that sort of meshes better with local commerce," Stoudt said. "Often our customers will have a trade-in that they want to have fairly valued and that's hard to do over the internet.

"They often want to know what the vehicle looks like -- what it looks like in a certain color, what it looks like with a certain interior and while you can get really close to where you want to go with internet pictures - ultimately our customers to have touched it before they make a decision."

Stoudt said another piece of the family business that has helped keep R.M. Stoudt alive for the past 79 years is local servicing. Oil changes, tire rotations and other vehicle maintenance are what Stoudt said is the most important asset and the thing that brings people back to the dealership.

"We've been so lucky," Stoudt said. "We've been hoping for the fifth generation of our family to help us serve our customers but we've been able to do business with four and five generations of other families throughout the community. There's always a sweetness when a grandpa or a parent brings a child in and says to them 'this is someone you can trust.' It sort of closes a circle both for our family history and for them as well."

While four generations - of Stoudts and other community members - have helped to keep the dealership open through the years, some new business tactics and clientele have been helpful when operating in the midst of a global health pandemic.

"Our business is down because a lot of our friends and customers are uncertain about their work and therefore they are being very prudent about creating expenses that they may not be able to make payments on," Stoudt said. "People are being intelligently cautious right now.

"One of the things that is helping us is people doing a lot of investigation from home. Interestingly we have had good luck selling cars to Bismarck, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota. So we've had a wonderful base of local people keeping us alive forever and ever but hopefully, we are making some additional long-term friends from a pretty broad area."

R.M. Stoudt has remained open to the public since the coronavirus first hit North Dakota on March 14 and is continuing to build relationships across state lines and right in the Buffalo City.

"We had a gentleman bring in a receipt from when he bought a car from us in 1952," Stoudt said. "It was just so much fun to see him and have that relationship for 70 years. There's a lot of fun and joy in those relationships we've had through all those years."