Thriving on the prairie
Harvey creates strategy for business success
HARVEY – When Paul Gunderson arrived in Harvey in January 2018 to direct the local Jobs Development Authority, CP Rail had just announced plans to decommission its terminal in the city, eliminating dozens of local jobs. Community leaders were worried how the blow might impact the town of just over 1,700 population.
Gunderson, city leaders and the community went to work, and three years later, Harvey is thriving, having added 31 businesses. Its downtown business district along Lincoln Avenue has particularly benefited from new businesses and rehabilitated buildings.
Gunderson attributed Harvey’s success to its abundance of energy and its capacity to think strategically about the future, as well as its wealth of civic volunteering and initiative.
“That’s what’s really, in my opinion, fundamental to a community that needs to sustain itself and grow,” he said.
Ann Adams, former mayor and executive director for the Harvey Chamber of Commerce, credits Harvey’s success to a variety of factors, from Gunderson’s knowledge and assistance to the presence of a Jobs Development Authority and strong banking community. She also places the people of the town high on the list because of their acceptance and encouragement of new businesses.
“They embrace people coming here, and I think that’s very important,” Adams said. “We get an empty building on Main Street, we quick think what would be a great thing to put in here, and then we go after it and it gets done.”
She added Harvey has produced its own entrepreneurs, which helps account for a downtown that’s basically homegrown.
“A lot of young people are helping to create businesses in our town,” she said. “We’re just seeing it more and more that we’re getting the word out here that Harvey is an up and coming place.”
Part of that comes from a strategic plan the city pulled together a few years ago.
“We ultimately focused on about eight different areas, but a couple of them really pertained to revitalizing downtown,” Gunderson said. “We really embarked on a mission to create entrepreneurial capacity within. By the end of 2018, we had 11 new businesses in town.”
Harvey added 10 new businesses in 2019 and eight businesses in 2020. The only loss was one restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year now, we’ve added two more in the first quarter, and there’s more pending, depending on how things kind of unfold nationally as well as here,” Gunderson said.
Harvey still has three vacant buildings on Lincoln Avenue, but one is being seriously eyed by a potential business. Gunderson notes vacant spaces are down from 14 in 2018.
Beans & Boutique
Misti Arnold had recently moved from the family farm into Harvey when an opportunity arose to open the coffee shop she’d always wanted. She bought a Lincoln Avenue building that came up for sale in January 2020, gutting and transforming it largely with the help of local contractors and suppliers. They removed the false ceiling and installed new flooring and shiplap walls.
Marsai’s Bean & Boutique opened May 4 and employs eight people. Two hairstylists also rent space in the building, and Arnold’s daughter has a nutrition business there.
Arnold partnered with The Farmer’s Wife Cakes in Rugby to obtain baked goods for the coffee shop and recently started offering soups and salads once a week.
“We have people who come to sit and visit, and it’s been fun,” Arnold said. “The people have been just so supportive.”
The boutique was added to add more value to the space. It stocks largely women’s clothing but recently started a small men’s casual clothing line, and Arnold is considering adding children’s clothing.
Her building isn’t the only one recently renovated, either.
Just up the avenue is Northern Family Wellness and Chiropractic, which rehabilitated a building, moving into the new location last July. The building houses a chiropractor, massage therapist and reiki therapist. Next door to the chiropractic center is one of Harvey’s newest businesses in a rehabbed building, Mosaic Wellness Center
Mosaic Wellness Center is one piece of the vision of Jonathan and Nicole Franklin, who returned to their hometown to recruit mental health services to the area. Nicole is a mental health therapist, and Jonathan sold his part ownership in a financial investments firm to move to Harvey and become principal in Mosaic Properties LLC.
“Our goal together is to bring as many therapists to this area as possible, because we’re vastly underserved. It’s a mental health desert here,” Jonathan Franklin said.
Mosaic Properties LLC has been among businesses taking advantage of Harvey’s new federal Opportunity Zone designation to rehabilitate a deteriorating downtown property for the wellness center.
Jonathan Franklin said the property had been abandoned for about five years before Mosaic Properties acquired it, and there had been no improvements for many years before that. A wooden building on the property was removed with the help of a local JDA grant, creating an open area where the Franklins installed a fence and plan to create a mini-park.
A separate building with historical character was restored. The Franklins replaced all the windows and doors, making use of natural light, as well as insulating and putting in a high-efficiency furnace. They also modernized the decor.
“We want people to feel good when they come in here – that they want to be in here,” Jonathan Franklin said. “It’s just eliminating one more barrier for people to overcome to get help.”
Recently opened, the Mosaic Wellness Center currently includes space for Nicole Franklin’s therapy services, a naturopath and an addiction counselor coming part-time from Devils Lake. The building also has meeting room space.
The upper level of the building was refurbished as a two-bedroom unit for Airbnb rentals or to house traveling therapists needing an overnight stay.
“People will come in and just say thank you,” Jonathan Franklin said of the community’s response to the changes. “So that has felt very good. The people appreciate all our hard work, appreciate our vision. And then they get it and they’re supportive. So that’s a good payoff already.”
The current building is too small for the Franklins’ vision to bring in 20 therapists – the number they see as needed. But Mosaic Properties also has acquired another, larger building in Harvey where space does exist for the dream.
Rod and Angela Marchand and sons Spencer and Quincy are pursuing another vision in Harvey through Marchand Retail Group. Tom’s Home Furnishings is the company’s showplace on Harvey’s Lincoln Avenue, where the flooring, furniture and appliance store encompasses about half a block. The store has had a growing trade area, helped in part by e-commerce.
“E-commerce is where the future is,” Spencer Marchand said. “You still get that same service that we have at Tom’s here, but all over the state of North Dakota.”
Additionally, Tom’s Home Furnishings is the regional powerhouse in flooring, employing certified installation teams that work commercially across North Dakota and into Minnesota. The company has done commercial work for grocery chains, the railroads and school districts. Through connections and buying groups, the store has been competitive, and through its service, it offers something extra, Spencer Marchand said.
Builders Corps, another division of Marchand Retail Group, helps North Dakota contractors broker their products and grow their small businesses through a buying group.
A third division, Accord Comfort Sleep Systems, manufactures its own health-centric mattress brand in Chicago.
“We’ve shipped beds to all 50 states and Puerto Rico. We’ve sold all over the country in the last three years,” Spencer Marchand said. Having sold in-store, online and through Amazon, the company now is working on an international market with contacts in India.
“We have another international company that we’re just forming, and we should be taking our products internationally and globally as a brand,” Rod Marchand said. “All of that has been basically built upon this kind of ever-expanding notion of our company – and I think our belief and desire to do something that is traditionally a little bit bigger than what you would do in a small community. But the world has shrunk with all the internet and global connections.”
Rod Marchand’s father, Tom, started in electronics 41 years ago, selling televisions and home stereos. The business transitioned to furniture, and in 1999, Rod Marchand bought the company. He expanded the business beyond the traditional community boundaries to embrace a trade area that encompasses North Dakota and extends into Minnesota and South Dakota. The company now employs 14 people.
Spencer and Quincy Marchand saw opportunity in Harvey after graduating from Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis. They returned to their hometown to become the family-owned company’s third generation.
Having his sons to handle the day-to-day business frees his time to work on business and relationship building, said Rod Marchand, who recently authored a top-selling book on entrepreneurship.
“They’ve been paramount on the back end of that, helping me build, strategize, bringing a younger perspective,” he said of his sons. “As much as I like to claim I’m in charge, it’s really always a collaborative effort.”
“We really enjoy and are proud of our ability as a company – and with all of our employees – to perform and to really strive for that personal and professional excellence,” Quincy Marchand said. “People sometimes forget that even though you’re just selling someone carpet or you’re just putting in a floor here or you’re giving someone a couch, that if you do it right, it’s actually an impactful way of improving someone’s life that day. We really take that to heart – try to do our best to make people appreciate life a little bit more, even through just simple acts of kindness and service.”
Spencer Marchand also stressed the importance of local businesses supporting each other.
“You’ve got to show people that these small towns can be bustling communities again, and it all starts at the local level and starts with individual people,” he said. “As a small business owner in rural North Dakota, we’re very big on buying local, supporting small business. You’re not going to save and preserve rural communities if you don’t support each other, and so it’s all about, for us, making sure that we do it for not only ourselves but our surrounding community.”
The Harvey Chamber of Commerce takes a similar approach in supporting rural businesses. The chamber’s membership grew from 64 to about 150 as its emphasis on member promotion has attracted not only local businesses but businesses from area communities, including Minot, Bismarck and Devils Lake.
Through the chamber, Adams launched Cruise 52, a free promotional site on Facebook for businesses in any community along U.S. Highway 52. Businesses receive signage for their windows to advertise their participation.
Gunderson said Harvey has been helped by a few other developments. The governor’s emphasis on rebuilding downtowns rather than increasing sprawl and the local medical center’s plan for a large expansion of its clinical capacity made a difference. Also, the railroad determined it needed to keep some of those jobs it planned on eliminating.
That’s not to say Harvey doesn’t have challenges. Among them has been recruiting natural gas service to be able to attract industry. Other concerns are asset transfer to ensure businesses continue to the next generation and workforce development to fill local jobs.
Going forward, Harvey leaders will be working to address those issues, Gunderson said. An initiative currently is in motion for a proposed Learning Commons, where business owners can learn about asset transfer and people can gain job skills in needed areas such as information technology or truck driving. Harvey has been applying for and receiving grants to help establish the career training center downtown.
“Good things are happening in our little town,” Adams said. “It’s amazing what this town is doing.”