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'I am approaching the end of my rope': In struggling times, FM business owner pleads for public's help

Wayne Sander is asking for the public's help in keeping afloat two businesses he operates. Dave Olson/The Forum1 / 2
i.d.k. Contemporary Fine Dining has opened in Moorhead in the former Sarello’s space.David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD—When the IDK restaurant opened here in July, owners Wayne Sander and David Hoffman enjoyed several weeks of booming business.

However, customer numbers soon dwindled and haven't rebounded.

"Everybody forgot about us," Sander said. "We went from doing $2,500-$3,000 a day in sales, to $400-$700 a day in sales."

And that spells trouble, not just for the restaurant, but also the Mrs. Fields cookie store in West Acres, which Sander also owns.

Sander said he opened the restaurant as a way to support the cookie store and he now has two struggling businesses instead of one.

At a loss for what to do next, Sander decided to ask the public for help and he's set up a GoFundMe page seeking $50,000.

He said the money is needed to keep the businesses running until his customers come back.

His GoFundMe pitch is a deeply personal one and Sander appears willing to leave nothing out.

He starts it this way:

"This story begins on April 7, 2015. The night before was like any other night. I had fallen asleep on the couch while my husband, Dan, went to sleep in the bedroom.

"Around 5 a.m., Dan shot me twice in the head, murdered the cat and committed suicide," Sander wrote on his GoFundMe page, adding that he spent several days in the hospital recovering.

"I never had a clue that anything was wrong. If there were signs, he hid them from me. We were together for over 19 years," Sander added.

After the shooting, Sander's brother in law suggested he move to Moorhead to start over and that's what he did, purchasing the Mrs. Fields store in February 2016.

At first, everything was fine.

Then, one month after he purchased the business, Thirteenth Avenue South, the primary road to West Acres, underwent construction.

Although the construction work is done, it caused a number of stores in the mall to close and Mrs. Fields lost about 25 percent of its customers, according to Sander, who said mall traffic is picking up, but slowly.

This past February, Sander and his new husband, David Hoffman, worked with the Small Business Development Center at Concordia College to come up with a business plan for a restaurant.

"On paper, opening a restaurant appeared to be the obvious choice for saving Mrs. Fields and providing an income. We signed a lease on a property in May and opened for business in July," Sander said on his GoFundMe page.

"So, that brings us to today," he added. "I moved to Moorhead expecting to rebuild my life and start over, but it hasn't worked out that way. It's been the opposite really. I am nearly out of money. I have sold my car, I have sold our home, we pawned our wedding rings and I have sold the last of any valuables that Dan left behind. I have nothing left to give," Sander said.

As of the end of the weekend,the GoFundMe page had listed about $1,000 in pledges,

Sander concedes disappointment with the amount.

"Our biggest roadblock is time, we need more time to let people know we're here, to do more events to get people to sample our food," Sander said.

His GoFundMe page puts it this way:

"I am approaching the end of my rope and I fear that we will lose everything.

"We need the chance to become a success," he added. "Your funding will also help support the jobs of over 15 people. I am extremely grateful for any help that anyone can give."

Dave Olson
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