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Shopping local at our hometown small businesses this holiday season

In every town I visit across North Dakota, I'm astounded by the folks I meet and the incredible stories they have to tell about their leaps into entrepreneurship. This holiday season, it's their stories that inspire me the most. With just an idea...

In every town I visit across North Dakota, I’m astounded by the folks I meet and the incredible stories they have to tell about their leaps into entrepreneurship. This holiday season, it’s their stories that inspire me the most. With just an idea, passion and lots of hard work - many of our state’s small businesses have become the most cherished staples in our communities.
With Christmas right around the corner, we can keep the small businesses that make up more than 95 percent of our state’s employers in mind when we shop for gifts for our loved ones - remembering that our friends, fellow churchgoers, and neighbors are often the ones behind the counter of the local shops we know and love - so many of whom have taken huge leaps of faith to invest in the communities they call home.
Just a few years ago, over the bridge from my home in Mandan, the mother-daughter team behind Lot 2029 - named for their July birthdays - were working around the clock, maintaining full-time jobs during the day, then renovating their soon-to-be-storefront in downtown Bismarck late into the evenings until the wee hours of the morning. Madonna Wald - who grew up on a farm in Hague and had spent 20 years as an interior designer with dreams of starting her own business, began making that vision a reality with her daughter, Hope, then a brand new NDSU graduate with a degree in fashion. Putting her entire life savings on the line, and spending countless nights with a knot in her stomach - Madonna told me she would “do it again in a heartbeat,” for the store that - replete with holiday dresses and glittery sequined pillows this season - brings a little more joy to her family’s hometown.
Across the state, the home décor, fine pens, journals and books of Zandbroz have stood the test of time in downtown Fargo, as Mandan natives, brothers Greg and Jeff Danz, decided to forego their father’s dairy - where they still joke they were better paid - to take a chance and share with their community the pieces they loved, but aren’t easily found in big box stores. Greg’s daughter, Josie, told me about watching her father since she was 3 years old and learning about the true commitment of pursuing a dream, and about the strength, loyalty, and heart of their neighbors in downtown Fargo over the past 24 years.
It’s so important to make sure these small businesses have the tools and resources they need to thrive, and as a member of the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, I’ve worked to do just that, bringing the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration across our state - from Bismarck to Fargo - this summer to hear firsthand from small business owners about challenges they face. But back at home in Mandan, I’m working to support my friends and neighbors with a little more Christmas cheer.
This holiday season, let’s remember to keep the small businesses that represent the heart and hard work of North Dakotans in mind as we’re looking for those special gifts for our loved ones. Because it’s these small businesses - and our communities at their core - that are a true reflection of our state.

Heidi Heiktamp, a Democrat, is one of two senators representing North Dakota in Washington, D.C.

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