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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published August 05 2013

Super-sized vending machine proving popular in Oil Patch

WILLISTON, N.D. – Lisa Holman cringes at the thought of driving five miles back to Williston for the one thing she forgot at the store.

Now the resident of Fox Run RV Park north of Williston has another option.

The park recently became home to an automated convenience store called Shop24, a large vending machine that sells everything from milk to laundry detergent to frozen pizza rolls.

The shop, which is popular on college campuses, businesses and transportation hubs across the country, is new to North Dakota and the first to be placed at an RV park.

A second Shop24 is located near Watford City at the Blue Sky Lodge crew camp.

The machines aim to bring convenience store items to temporary housing residents in North Dakota’s Oil Patch who are often miles away from a store, said Rob Lindberg, president of LaVenture Logistics, which owns and operates the two stores.

“If you’re out of Tide, you don’t want to drive all the way to Walmart just to do your clothes,” Lindberg said. “If you forgot an item, we’re kind of the local help.”

The response to the two shops has been strong, Lindberg said. Pop, iced tea and other beverages are the strongest sellers, but other items such as used DVDs also have been popular, he said.

The shops accept cash or credit cards and can sell anything that weighs between 1 ounce and 10 pounds. The exact items will vary depending on demand, but examples of other things sold in Williston are shampoo, ready-to-eat pork chops, headphones, Pepto Bismol and paper towels.

Some prices are higher than a typical convenience store. For example, a 20-ounce soda costs $2.14. But a footlong sandwich sells for $5.24, likely one of the cheapest options in the area, Lindberg said.

Holman said she’d gladly pay double to avoid waiting in a long line in Williston.

“Certain things you’ve just got to have,” said Holman, who also works at the RV park as office manager.

Harold Cushman, who lives at the park and does maintenance, said he is responsible for selling the shop out of sweet tea. But he’s not the only customer.

“This thing’s pretty busy, actually,” Cushman said.

Lindberg said the company is talking to other housing providers and is considering other locations in North Dakota.