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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published May 01 2011

Halgrimson: Shopping center a former northside hub of activity

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third and final column in a look at Fargo’s Northport Shopping Center.

In May 1996, Northport Shopping Center turned 40. It had become a meeting place for the north side of Fargo, and as Gary Hart, then manager of Hornbacher’s Foods said, it was “a neighborhood center in a little community of its own.”

Northport is located between Broadway and Eighth Street and between 25th and 28th avenues north.

At 40 years old, Northport had 18 stores and more than 400 employees. According to a Forum story from that time, members of the Northport Merchants Association were Ben Franklin Crafts; Blockbuster Video; Canary’s Fashions; Dakota Clinic; E-Clips Hair Salon; Gramm’s Hallmark; Hornbacher’s; Little Caesar’s Pizza; Lois J. Pope, CPA; Mailboxes Etc.; Northport Barbers; Northport Drug; Northport True Value; Runion’s Floral Etc.; Sports Den; State Bank of Fargo and Ted’s Northport Conoco.

Of those listed, only Blockbuster Video, Gramm’s Hallmark, Hornbacher’s, Northport Drug, Northport Tesoro gas station and State Bank and Trust of Fargo remain.

A branch of the Fargo Public Library opened in 2006 with books for children, teens and adults; an assortment of DVDs, CDs, software, magazines and newspapers; and four computers with Internet access and wireless Internet. It was the first regional library to use radio frequency identification in a self-checkout machine.

In 1997, Northport Barbers, owned for 40 years by Don Werth, moved to Happy Harry’s Plaza. After eight years, Runion’s Floral closed in 1998. And in 2009, the Innovis Clinic closed its doors.

Some of the biggest losses for the shopping center were the closings of the Ben Franklin and hardware stores.

In October 2006, after 50 years in business, the last Fargo Ben Franklin store closed its doors at the Northport location. Started by Doug Larsen and owned by daughter Sue Johnson, the Ben Franklin, originally a five-and-dime, had become a craft store and occupied about 22,000 square feet.

In the beginning, the store carried everything from men’s parkas and women’s clothing to fabrics, school supplies and kitchen supplies.

At the time of the closing, Larsen said, “Back in the 1970s, we were like a little town out here. The people that lived out here took a real ownership in this shopping center. We didn’t have the competition of the big-box stores to draw people out of the north side.”

This past August, Tooltime Paint, Hardware and Rental, which began in 1956 as Brakke Hardware, went out of business. The store was owned by Tim and Joan Beaton. In the past, it had also been known as Bob’s Hardware and Northport True Value Hardware.

The Ben Franklin, hardware store and clinic remain empty.

Lenny Tweeden wrote to me telling me how the name for the shopping center came about. He says he worked at Ted’s Super Valu when Floyd Bullow was manager and that Bullow came up with the name North Port – it was originally two words – based on the fact that it was north of the airport. Tweeden adds that at the time you could see the airport from the mall.

Readers can contact Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com