WESTHOPE, N.D. — The idea of owning a coffee shop had been percolating in Benjiman Cartwright’s brain for 18 years.
Turns out, he had to buy a newspaper to make it happen.
“There was never a place in Westhope that would work for that. So, all of a sudden, the newspaper came up for sale, and I came up here and talked to (owner) Ginny (Heth) about it and looked at the building and figured that we could make it work with both of them,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright, with his wife, Amanda, took over The Standard in Westhope in September 2020.
But it wasn’t until early March that they, with the help of friend and head barista, Megan Mott, started serving drinks and Amanda’s pastries and other goodies at The Standard News and Brews coffee shop.
Cartwright says the businesses complement each other and fill a need in the town of 500, which sits 60 miles north of Minot.
“Everybody loves it. It’s been nice to have a gathering space for people. We’ve got the younger people and the older folks that come and sit down and have a cup of coffee with all their friends. It’s been a big help for a gathering place in town,” Cartwright said.
The shop serves several types of coffee, teas, hot chocolate, Italian sodas, smoothies, protein shakes, frappes, energy drinks and fresh pastries daily.
In doing so, it fills a gap.
Westhope has a cafe, but the coffee shop is a bigger-city amenity, which is kind of cool beans when you’re six miles from Canada, Cartwright said.
“(People) come in and they can’t believe that something like this is in Westhope,” he said.
The coffee shop is the busier of the two enterprises and takes up 600 square feet of the 800-square-foot building, which has been the home of The Standard since the newspaper first opened in 1903.
Cartwright’s day job is working full-time for Double EE Service, an oilfield supply company. He had no experience with newspapers or coffee shops before taking on either business, and he’s learned by doing.
His nights and weekends are devoted to writing, editing, selling ads and laying out the eight-page weekly newspaper. Sleep is secondary, but he’s OK with the grind.
“I like to work. I honestly just like to work. So, a 14-, 16-hour day is average for me,” he said.
The Cartwrights aren’t the only entrepreneurs who’ve co-located another business with their ink and paper outlets.
Ashley Tribune publisher and editor Tony Bender said the Tribune had a coffee shop called Jitters until the pandemic hit.
“I’m not sure it penciled out! But we had good coffee,” he said.
Paul Erdelt, owner and editor of the Steele Ozone and Kidder County Press, has run several small businesses in addition to his newspaper operations. Among them is Erdelt's Legendary Renovations. He's devoted a good chunk of space in the Ozone’s “really big, old building” toward showcasing the windows, flooring and cabinets that he’s sold for many years around the region.
It pays to pour your efforts into filling a pressing need, Erdelt said.
“What do the small towns need? Obviously, the newspaper has the pulse of a small town. It's a fit. Especially in the small towns with the weekly papers,” Erdelt said.
Cartwright agrees, despite the sometimes “crazy” pace of the work.
In fact, he’s considering brewing up more businesses.
“I could see down the road myself buying another newspaper and doing the same thing. It (coffee and reading newspapers) does kind of go hand in hand,” Cartwright said. “One business complements the other and they share the expenses of the utilities. It is an option to keep a newspaper alive if they’re struggling.”