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Overwhelmed and understaffed

Posted 8/17/11 (Wed)

By Olivia Sundeen   
Farmer Staff Writer

During a time when the rest of the world is in an economic slump, western North Dakota is thriving in its own bubble.
The question is, “Do local businesses welcome the boom? Or are they just overwhelmed?”
“Absolutely, we welcome the boom,” stated Aaron Pelton of Outlaws’ Bar & Grill. “We were not fully prepared for it, but it is good to see all these new faces.”
For longtime locals there are mixed emotions as the new faces begin to take over the checkout lines at the grocery stores, the gas pumps or even the tables at the restaurants.
“It is a lot of adjusting,” stated Pelton. “But we have business every day and for that we are happy.”
Along with the good there is the bad.
“The national economy is hurting and we aren’t, so I am thankful for that,” stated Susan Tschetter of Mike’s Super Valu. “But we now see people earlier and later. Watford City is no longer an 8 to 5 community anymore.”
For most area businesses, the struggle isn’t just the influx in business because that can be controlled. It is the lack of help that makes things like extended hours and more customers a hard thing to control.
“We have to hire a lot more people,” stated Tschetter. “We have started to stay open longer hours to accommodate the customers. We open as soon as we get here and we have people coming in and out all day.”
If only it was as simple as just hiring employees.
“We’ve lost a lot of help,” stated Sandy Celander, owner of the Dakotan Restaurant. “We can’t compete with the salaries that oil-related businesses are offering. We used to have 15 to 17 employees and now we have half of that. No one new is wanting to come in and help out, yet we still have three times the business. We have gotten so short-handed that we have had to lock the door for an hour just to catch up on dish washing.”
The money is there. But if you can’t keep your business up and running, is it worth it?
For pre-boom businesses that is what they struggle with. For newer business owners they don’t know anything but the boom.
“This restaurant wasn’t here before the boom,” stated Shelly Suelzle, Little Missouri Grille owner. “The day goes much faster with the increased business. I do have the issue of going through help, but the ones that really enjoy it stay. I think this is a great opportunity for Watford City.”
And for some businesses the boom has given them an opportunity to try something new.
“The Twist Drive-In has been a local business in Watford for many years,” stated Ben Gumke, assistant manager. “Now that we are a lot busier we feel that there is a demand for us to extend our hours into a full year type of business. This business wouldn’t be able to make this change without the customers we see every day.”
Times have changed and there are days when business owners and employees feel overwhelmed. Some more than others, but for most the boom is welcomed in many ways.
“It is better to be a little overwhelmed than unemployed in my book,” stated Gumke.
Luckily for Watford City, just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has really changed.
Locals still greet community members with smiles and friendly hellos. But it is important to remember to keep your small-town friendliness in check.
“We have a whole new environment,” stated Jayson Lund, One Stop owner. “Treat it that way and use caution in everything you do. In 17 years, my business has never been broken into until recently. Keep that in mind as you adjust to the boom.”