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Dakota Store popular with tourists, residents

The business carries products made in North Dakota along with souvenirs.

Dakota Store Deb Lee 020822.jpg
The Dakota Store is a nonprofit that helps provide volunteers for nonprofits where needed in Stutsman County, said Deb Lee, who operates the nonprofit. The store carries North Dakota-made products along with some souvenirs and is popular with tourists and people in the Jamestown region.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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The Dakota Store was never intended to make a large profit, said Deb Lee, who operates the nonprofit on First Avenue.

“I look at it as a community service,” she said. “It isn’t a huge moneymaker. … It covers the wages that we have, it covers the rent, but we’re not a huge moneymaker. The best part is when people come in and say, ‘I have never been here before and I will be back again.’ That happens over and over again.”

Lee said the business was organized as a nonprofit in 2009.

“It was intentional to support the RSVP volunteer program,” she said. “We’re still a nonprofit. Now we support the (Jamestown) Volunteer Center.”

RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) was a national program and it was sponsored by North Dakota State University, Lee said. Originally, it was 70 percent federally funded and 30 percent locally funded. But with federal funding being uncertain on a long-term basis, it became important to find another way to pay for operations.

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“They wanted us to have an enterprise of some sort that would be supporting of the volunteer program so we could be the 70 percent instead of having to rely on government money,” Lee said.

Started in 2009 in the Nut Cluster business, Dakota Store later operated at Frontier Village during the tourist season.

In the summer we get visitors from everywhere. They come in here and they’re up at the Village.
Deb Lee, who operates the Dakota Store

When Lee read a Jamestown Sun story that the AAUW Used Bookstore needed to move from the Buffalo Mall due to Dunham’s Sports coming in, she thought the bookstore might be a good fit with the Dakota Store. She asked AAUW member Kelly Krein about looking for a location that would serve both organizations. They found it at 601 1st Ave. S.

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A Dakota Store gift box contains food products from North Dakota companies. They are popular gifts during the Christmas season.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

“We combined (locating in one place) and it’s been a good fit,” Lee said, one that has worked for almost five years.

Dakota Store continues to operate a store in Frontier Village during the tourist season as well as the year-round business downtown.

Volunteers fill roles in county

The Jamestown Volunteer Center finds people to work as volunteers in Stutsman County if they are needed to do a task for nonprofits. They contact the Dakota Store and Lee helps find volunteers.

Volunteers have helped with such tasks as taking tickets for events at the Jamestown Civic Center, conducting deliveries and pickups for Daily Bread - Jamestown and working at Orphan Grain Train and TechSavvy, an educational event for students.

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They also work at the Dakota Store in Frontier Village.

“They very, very much enjoy it,” Lee said.

Lee said she has a pool of about 150 volunteers who help out a little or a lot. They’re retirees who range from someone who may work only one time to others who have helped for years and everything else in between.

“They say, ‘I really want to do something,’” Lee said.

Volunteers who work for the Dakota Store at Frontier Village during the tourist season are also trained on other things to do in Jamestown.

“In the summer we get visitors from everywhere,” Lee said. “They come in here (at the downtown store) and they’re up at the Village.”

Dakota Store

The Dakota Store is a place to find North Dakota-made products and souvenirs. The store carries items including food, gifts, T-shirts and books. There aren’t many craft items for purchase at Dakota Store because there are other businesses here that offer that, Lee said.

“Probably 60 percent of our business are the food products,” Lee said.

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Books by North Dakota authors can be found at the store.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

She said the store has “the best selection” of food products in 100 miles and is popular not only with tourists but residents in about a 60-mile radius. Dakota Store represents about 90 companies, she said. She noted that many people think Dakota Store is a Pride of Dakota store, but Pride of Dakota is a brand through the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to promote North Dakota products.

“We do some souvenir kind of things of course that are not made in North Dakota,” she said. “ … Especially with our Frontier Village traffic, we’ve added that in and that’s been very good. People want to buy the souvenirs, so we needed to carry things that say North Dakota on it. Otherwise, we try to stay true to what’s made here and not do South Dakota and Minnesota.”

T-shirts, some of which are designed by the volunteers, are printed in Jamestown and are popular items.

“In the Village, we sell lots and lots of T-shirts in the summer,” Lee said.

Lee said the store tries to carry local products, recently acquiring Buffalo City Popcorn and Jimmy Knots, a smoked pretzel.

“Everything is labeled as far as where it’s made,” Lee said. “We have things from Linton and Grand Forks, Flasher, Dickinson, Minot, a lot from the Bismarck area.”

There is an appeal for purchasing products that are made by North Dakotans, Lee said.

“I think North Dakotans feel a connection to anybody who’s from North Dakota,” she said.

Lee said North Dakotans love to send something made here to relatives who used to live in the state. While Dakota Store does not ship purchases for shoppers, it does provide customers with advice on shipping and helps businesses with corporate gifts to ship.

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Dakota Store

601 1st Ave. S.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday- Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. second Saturday of each month

Kathy Steiner has been the editor of The Jamestown Sun since 1995. She graduated from Valley City State College with a bachelor's degree in English and studied mass communications at North Dakota State University, Fargo. She reports on business, government and community topics in the Jamestown area. Reach her at 701-952-8449 or ksteiner@jamestownsun.com.
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