In 2013 when I returned to Dickinson, North Dakota after working and living in Texas for a year, two older acquaintances of mine recommended to me that I visit a particular business in this area, because they thought that it was a very unique and interesting place. Over the next eight years, I heard other people talking about this business, I saw a few mentions of it in regional newspapers, and posts about it on Facebook.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2021 when I began taking motorcycle rides that had no purpose other than sightseeing and exploring, that I first visited this business that I had been hearing about for years. The building was not a disappointment or a let-down, it was as unusual and unique as everyone had described. The owner was an interesting and likable person, and I wished that I would have visited this place sooner.
There were a few reasons why I didn’t stop at this business in the 2014-2020 timeframe, mostly having to do with this blog that I write. I had written about a young woman that I liked, she sometimes came here, and I didn’t want to run into her. I was not wanting a confrontation with her, nor for her to get the idea that I was stalking her. Then, in 2016 I wrote a blog post article defending a 20 year old young man in Dickinson, who in my opinion was being over vilified for having sex with a young high school girl. This article of mine enraged some women, who in addition to loudly criticizing this article and me, began to organize, collaborate, and make plans against me.
It became apparent, that people, groups, and businesses who looked me up on Facebook, whose profiles showed up under “People You May Know”, were just as likely or more than likely a potential enemy, rather than a friend. Viewing some of these Facebook pages and profiles, I could see negative comment threads regarding me and my blog post articles. This business that I had wanted to visit, a few of its employees and associates had looked me up on Facebook, so I stayed away. not knowing whether they were interested in hearing what I had to say, or hated me.
When I finally did visit this business in the summer of 2021, I had a chance to speak to the owner without having given my name, or much information about myself. He had some of the same interests as me, and I talked with him for more than an hour. I believe that by the time I left, he probably figured out who I was. I was glad that I had been able to meet and talk to him, without my reputation preceding me, or anyone clamoring to lash out at me. But I did realize that I should rarely or never come back here.
When I later read a Dickinson Press newspaper article from back around 2013, which was an interview with this business owner and his wife explaining who they were, where they had come from, how they bought this business, what they had done to it, what they planned to do with it, I realized that I had mistakenly thought that this building had existed in this condition for many years. I had thought this building was used for this purpose since the 1930s or 1950s, I had no idea the amount of restoration and re-purposing work he and his wife had put into it.
They didn’t just take over a business, they built this business. This wasn’t just a business purchase for them, this was a complete life change for he and his wife, something that they had been contemplating and looking into for several years, before moving to North Dakota to buy this property and begin renovations that took three years to complete, doing most of the work themselves. They were not wealthy people, they put everything they had into this, all of their own money and what money they could borrow. All of the money had to go towards building materials, there was not enough money to hire contractors, they did the work themselves.
One week ago, I was shocked and stunned when I saw on Facebook that this business was for sale. This was their dream, this was their life, they’ve been building this business for the past twelve years, how can they sell this?
I talked to one of my coworkers about this, he already knew, other people had told him. I talked to one of the City Commissioners about this, he already knew also.
I immediately wanted to ask this business owner what happened, why was he doing this. I would have asked his wife if she was there instead of him. I had to wait until I wasn’t working, and go there when it was not a busy time of day for them.
A couple of days ago I went to this business at about 3:00 p.m., and there was only one other customer, who was not currently engaged in conversation with the owner. The owner instantly recognized me, partly because I was carrying a motorcycle helmet, and he asked me if I was riding my BMW motorcycle. I told him yes, he could ride it if he wanted to.
He probably would have taken my motorcycle for a ride, had it not been for the other customer, who now came over to join the conversation. Out of politeness, and knowing the other customer much better than me, he kept the conversation mostly in line with what this other customer was familiar with.
Soon, I said that I had seen the advertisement for this business being for sale, why was he selling? He explained about his wife and kids, a kind of logistical inconvenience. When he said that he had already moved to a different state, his wife and kids were there now, I knew that there was more to this. It would have been easier to move a few miles to solve the problems that he had described, not move to an entirely different state.
I said that where he had moved, was being over-run with Californians, didn’t he know that North Dakota was the last safe place? The things that I began explaining, he knew what I was talking about, but he didn’t add to my analysis. I hadn’t meant to be rude or inconsiderate, but I hadn’t realized that the other customer wasn’t following along. I had kind of misjudged the other customer as someone who had also worked and lived in many other states.
After it was too late, I realized that I had apparently alienated and possibly offended the other customer, who was a local person. I looked him over more carefully, in preparation for a possible fight or punch coming my way. I hated this feeling of having tried to discuss something, find out something, and instead nearly getting into a fight. It seems like the majority of the time when I go someplace and interact with people in the Dickinson area, they don’t know what I am talking about, and I regret the interaction.
After the other customer left, the business owner said to me, what is universally understand by people who move here from out-of-state, “I am not from here.”. I said, I know, but you have already made it past where everybody is trying to find out where you are from, who you are, what you are going to do, to where now you are an employer of local people, are a part of the local economy, bring revenue to this community. He just shook his head.
It turned out that I already knew and understood the reasons why he and his wife had decided to sell their business and leave North Dakota. But I was interested to find out. Maybe there was some other reason, maybe there was something better somewhere else.
Especially for women from some place else, western North Dakota is a very difficult place to live. Here, women don’t have very many places to go either by themselves or with friends. Not only do women have few places to go, they have even fewer places that they would WANT to go. 50 miles to Walmart? 50 miles to Walmart in January when it’s -40 degrees Fahrenheit outside?
Something I need to remember and keep in mind, to never say very much, attract attention, interact with others, or stay inside very long in North Dakota with a nice motorcycle left parked outside where I can’t see it. I was so lucky that the local person who I probably offended, didn’t at the very minimum knock it over when he left.