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Published June 29, 2010, 10:55 AM

To borrow one of Yogi Berra’s lines, it looks like deja vu all over again for area sunflower growers.

A group of Pride of Dakota members wants to establish a cooperatively owned retail store in Mandan, N.D.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

A group of Pride of Dakota members wants to establish a cooperatively owned retail store in Mandan, N.D.

The Dakota Co-op Association plans to raise money for the project in an equity drive from June 15 to Aug. 15.

“We look at this (the proposed store) as another way of selling our products,” says Cindy Yale, vice president of the association and a proprietor of Mikey’s Country Candy in Burlington, N.D.

The store would allow shoppers to buy products from co-op members at a single location, rather than contacting members individually. It would be the first time that Pride of Dakota members operate a retail store together.

The 25-year-old Pride of Dakota program, affiliated with the North Dakota Department of Agriciulture, promotes products — many of them agricultural — from companies across the state. Pride of Dakota helps its 400-plus members with marketing and business planning, but can’t sell its members products.

That’s where the Dakota Co-op Association and its proposed store come in, Yale says.

Sara Kelsch of Pride of Dakota says her organization welcomes the proposed store.

“We’re very supportive,” she says.

In April, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring approved a $7,500 grant to help pay planning costs associated with the proposed store, according to the Dakota Co-op Association’s website.

The new store would be located in the former J.C. Penney location in Mandan. The Mandan City Commission already has given preliminary approval to an ordinance that would allow the Dakota co-op store to operate there, according to the association’s website.

The city of Mandan eventually will be asked to provide financial help for the project, the website says.

Yale says she’s not free to disclose how much money the equity drive will seek from potential investors.

But the amount requested from individual businesses will be “affordable,” she says.

The association will brief potential investors at 6:30 p.m. June 15 at the Mandan site of the proposed store, 308 W. Main St.

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