Faces of the Boom: Mom-and-pop store aims to keep small-town feel

Timothy and Jodi McGowan, owners of Comet Convenience Store in Alexander, N.D., help customers on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

ALEXANDER, N.D. – Life can get hectic in the Oil Patch, but the town of Alexander has a new business where folks can slow down.

Jodi and Timothy McGowan opened a convenience store last week aimed at giving locals a place to buy milk and basic grocery items without battling the highway traffic.

The small town between Williston and Watford City had a convenience store, but it closed after an expanded truck stop opened outside of town on U.S. Highway 85.

Jodi, Alexander’s only hairstylist, received requests from the community to stock pop and candy in her salon. She and her husband decided to take it further and open Comet Convenience Store in the same building where she cuts hair.

“I understand we’re growing, but it’s kind of nice to keep the mom and pops here,” Jodi said.

Jodi was born in Williston and used to spend summers working at her grandparents’ dairy farm near Alexander. She lived away from North Dakota for many years before she and her husband moved from Colorado to Alexander in 2010.

“I just wanted to come back home,” Jodi said. “This always felt like home.”

While Jodi said she sees a lot of good things happening with the oil activity, she misses the days when her grandfather could stop his vehicle in the middle of the road in Alexander and chat with a friend.

“We’ve lost a lot of our innocence,” she said. “That part is hard.”

The couple hopes that the convenience store will be a place where locals can get the personal touch of a small town store. The building had been the town’s senior center, and still has tables in the back where people can gather.

Jodi is the primary employee, occasionally taking breaks from cutting hair to assist convenience store customers.

“Keeping in touch with the community has been exciting,” Jodi said.

Timothy, who works two-week shifts for a saltwater disposal well, also works at the store during his weeks off. Last week, he was off from his regular job and spent about 90 percent of his time at the store.

“I’m having a blast,” he said.

The store, open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, is named after the town’s school mascot, the Comet. It carries convenience store items as well as local products, such as beef sticks from The Wurst Shop in Dickinson.

“We just want to help the community in whatever way we can to try to get it back to normal a little bit,” Jodi said.

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