Ashley Morken wasn’t motivated by profit when she opened Unglued, a modern craft and handmade shop.
Neither were 20 Below coffee shop owners Michael Moran and Ty Ford and Others boutique founder Laura Morris.
Instead, the four downtown business owners set out to create memorable experiences for people that would inspire them to live more creatively and feel connected to the community.
“You can maintain doing business as usual, but our downtown community especially is about people going after their dreams,” Morris says. “I think it’s what keeps people here in Fargo and attracts them.”
Morris opened nonprofit retail boutique Others, 18 8th St. S., Fargo, in November 2014 so people could do good daily by shopping ethically. One hundred percent of the profits from Others benefit education, public health and job creation.
The boutique hosts workshops, celebrations and giveback days to encourage community involvement and to get through retail lulls.
“There are months when it’s really tough but then you host events and it reinvigorates you,” Morris says. “The biggest thing is maintaining those pieces to connect the community together.”
Community drives Unglued’s Morken, too. When she hosted the first craft fest five years ago, she didn’t want to be a retail shop owner – just a supporter of modern makers. But the demand for a brick-and-mortar shop grew, and Unglued, 408 Broadway N., Fargo, opened three years ago.
The craft boutique’s hosted summer camps, late-night craft parties, workshops and giveback days. The events spark conversation and activity, Morken says, creating a vibrant, appealing community.
“It just makes the city seem like it’s excited to exist,” she says. “The whole community is doing things that make it that way. That’s what Fargo has very much become and what it’s growing toward.”
20 Below adopts quirky approaches to encourage engagement. Since the coffee shop opened in April at 14 Roberts St., Fargo, it’s hosted community lunch hours, costume days, “Friendnesday” and other events to make business fun for both patrons and employees. A recent favorite was “Norm’s Social,” inspired by the “Cheers” character.
“Going above and beyond for customers really helps people. They value experiences, that’s what I’m wanting to create,” Moran says. “We celebrate the regulars and take care of our customers.”
The growth of Fargo and wealth of creative businesses encouraged Ford to leave Sioux Falls, S.D., for Fargo and start 20 Below with Moran.
“That’s the only thing that drew us here and has kept us here,” Ford says.
Although it can be difficult during tough times to remember why they started, all four business owners are propelled by change and relationships.
“I think most people, as owners, are not just about the end dollar amount. They’re about making a difference in the community and being a part of that attractive change that is happening that simply enriches people’s lives,” Morken says. “People are moving here from other cities and they’re excited about it. They’re proud to show others Fargo.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.