Faces of the Boom: Minnesotans head west to grow in grocery business

Kimberly Pick, pictured Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, moved from Minnesota to northwestern North Dakota to become assistant store manager of Cash Wise Foods in Williston. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – When Kimberly Pick heard the grocery store chain she and her husband work for was expanding to North Dakota’s Oil Patch, she put a bug in her husband’s ear.

“I knew it would be opportunity for us,” said Kimberly, 30.

Kimberly and Jeremy Pick, both natives of the St. Cloud, Minn., area, are longtime employees of Coborn’s Inc., which recently opened Cash Wise stores in western North Dakota.

They were content with their jobs in central Minnesota, but both wanted to grow with the company, Kimberly said.

Jeremy, 32, was the first to get a taste of western North Dakota when he helped out at the new Cash Wise store as it opened in Watford City.

“He had come home one day and said, ‘If you want to go out there, let’s do it,’” Kimberly said.

Jeremy began working in October as the produce manager for the Watford City store and Kimberly started in November as assistant store manager for the Williston Cash Wise.

“I told them I wasn’t going to stop here, though,” Kimberly said. “I’d like to still have my own store.”

Both began their careers in Sauk Rapids, Minn., at Coborn’s first store, Kimberly as a cashier 12 years ago and Jeremy as a grocery bagger 15 years ago.

The North Dakota stores they now work for are much larger than the Coborn’s stores in the St. Cloud area where they most recently held management positions. The pay also is greater to be competitive with the higher wages common in western North Dakota.

“For me, it’s a huge opportunity,” Jeremy said.

The couple lives in Watford City in a townhouse and the company helps offset the high cost of housing.

Kimberly commutes about an hour to work every day on U.S. Highway 85, which has heavy oilfield truck traffic.

“It’s stressful,” Kimberly said. “I wish they would repaint the stripes down that road, and I’m really looking forward to the four-lane highway.”

During the commute, Kimberly listens to the radio and hears constant help wanted advertisements. She’s now encouraging people at her former store in Minnesota to consider the opportunities in North Dakota.

“If you’re willing and able, you could do anything out here,” Kimberly said.

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