#525. The Other Wimbledon – I Played There!

Posted on | The Agurban

The Other Wimbledon—I Played There!

One of my favorite small, and I mean really small, towns is Wimbledon, North Dakota (population 216), one of the towns where I gave my BoomtownUSA talk.  There were so many people there that day engaged in finding ways to keep their town relevant, more than I’ve seen in any other town.  And, my soft spot for them was enhanced when they put a tennis racket in my hand and gave me a shirt that read, “I played tennis at Wimbledon!”  The North Dakota on the shirt was in VERY small letters.

I continue to subscribe to the Wimbledon Newsletter, which comes out 11 times a year, because of that one visit. The February 4, 2015 edition included a topic that we have covered several times in our Agurban: small town grocery stores. Wimbledon’s grocery store story falls into the category of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The Wimbledon Community Grocery & Café, saved from closure by a fundraising campaign several years ago, seemed to be humming along pretty good, with its bills paid and money in the checkbook. The shelves of the store were stocked. The store’s hours were extended which led to increased business.  According to the Newsletter, the “positive bank balance is due to many volunteer hours by store board members…”

But apparently, when volunteers clocked in to work to receive $2 store credit, they were violating minimum wage labor laws. (Volunteers not clocking in were not in violation of the law.) It is noted that if the store operated as a non-profit, volunteers would be welcome. Plus as a non-profit, the business could receive tax deductible donations, grants, and pull tab proceeds.  Board member John Schlecht stated, “The only way this store can still be here 5 or 10 years from now is if we switch to a non-profit. We’re lucky enough to still have the doors open.”

The next stockholder meeting is April 7th at which time members will vote on whether to become a non-profit or close in the near future and pay shareholders about 10 cents on the dollar for their shares.

We wish the residents the very best as they face this decision. The nearest “big” town is nearly 30 miles from Wimbledon, so having a local grocery store can be vital to the residents, especially older folks. We will let you know how the vote goes in early April.

Learn more about Wimbledon at www.wimbledonnd.com, or visit their facebook page at www.facebook.com/Wimbledon.North.Dakota.