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Owners 'heartbroken' after deciding to shut down a small-town staple

Matt and Shana Sharp pose for a photo July 15, 2016, at Sabin General Store, 23 Main St., Sabin, Minn. Forum file photo1 / 2
Sabin General Store, 23 Main St., Sabin, Minn., will close in late October 2017. Forum file photo2 / 2

SABIN, Minn.—Matt and Shana Sharp waited a week to share a decision that "breaks our hearts" about their business here.

The owners of Sabin General Store, 23 Main St., posted to Facebook Sunday evening, Oct. 8, that they'll close at the end of October.

"It definitely is a bad feeling when a place that so many people love won't be there anymore," Matt Sharp said.

The Sharps, residents of the small town of Sabin just a short drive southeast of Fargo-Moorhead on U.S. Highway 52, bought the store in the fall of 2015 from original owners Chuck and Mike McWethy. It had been there for eight years by the time the couple stepped in and signed a lease.

Matt Sharp said they put their effort and money into the store, including adding a liquor store about a year ago, but he said it was never really profitable, and sales have only gone down in the past year.

"Even if we were breaking even, we would just let it go forever," he said. "But we're losing money like crazy."

Sunday's Facebook post about the store closing after selling off as much inventory and equipment as possible prompted an outpouring of comments ranging from supportive to sad. Sharp said everybody seems to love the store.

But he said there just isn't enough business, especially when it has to compete with a nearby convenience store for traffic.

Sabin General Store offers everything from old-fashioned sodas and vintage toys to toilet paper, bait, ice and beer.

Sabin General Store, 23 Main St., Sabin, Minn., will close in late October 2017. Forum file photo

The Sharps bought the business while continuing to hold down careers, with Shana Sharp serving as a sign language interpreter with Moorhead Public Schools and Matt Sharp working as a finance manager at a car dealership.

He said he lost his job a couple months ago, a victim to the downturn in the auto industry. The couple's lease on the store building goes through next February, and the building, which is owned by other people, isn't for sale.

Sabin General Store is tentatively expected to close around the end of October, though he said the actual date could be a week before or after that. It'll just depend how sales go to sell off inventory, he said.

Sharp said they have plans to try to recoup some of their losses by repurposing the building, at least until the end of their lease. He's now working to get a dealer's license, and he said he'll open a small car dealership in the lot once he gets that. If things go well, he could extend the lease to stay there.

He also has an auctioneer's license and said he could try to do some auctions out of the building.

Despite things not working out, Sharp said the couple doesn't regret becoming first-time business owners.

"You never know why or what the purpose behind it is," he said. "It may not be to be a successful business; it may be the lessons you learn along the way."

There's a chance the store could live on, though it's unlikely. Sharp said he would consider renewing his lease if a new buyer came forward to take over the business. Still, he said it would be a tough task because the next owner would also have to try to stay afloat with a competitor just next door.

"There's two stores in town where they can barely support one," he said.

Business profile

What: Sabin General Store

Where: 23 Main St., Sabin, Minn.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Phone: (218) 677-1010

Online: www.facebook.com/sabingeneralstore

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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