The magic ingredient
by Cally Peterson
|The decor at Magic City Hoagies in Minot celebrates the history and spirit of the city.
PHOTOS BY NDAREC/LIZA KESSEL
Locals might define the “magic” of Minot in a multitude of ways.
Some may point to its unique attractions, like the Roosevelt Park Zoo – home of the rare Amur leopard and reticulated giraffe – or the full-scale replica of the Gol Stave Church and 27-foot tall Swedish Dala horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Park. Others will mention the N.D. State Fair or the Norsk Høstfest, both widely popular events Minot has hosted for decades.
Minot is also a sports town, so one would likely hear about the local schools, including the Minot State University Beavers, and three ice sheets at Maysa Arena, the home ice for the Minot Minotauros junior league hockey team.
Many will talk about the city’s cultural diversity, perhaps shaped by the Minot Air Force Base and military families who put down roots up north.
And the local eateries will be mentioned, too.
But to look back at Minot’s recent history – the Souris River flood of 2011, the Bakken oil boom of the 2010s and the COVID-19 pandemic – one defining feature stands above the rest. Shaped by the spirit of community, perhaps the true magic of Minot is its resilience.
|“The best darn hoagies in town” Magic City Hoagies, Minot|
|Stopping for hoagies in Minot|
At noon on March 20, 2020, Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order closing in-person service at bars and restaurants went into effect, a measure aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The foodservice industry was given a one-day notice. Essentially overnight, businessowners flexed their creativity and shifted operations to stay afloat.
“I wasn’t scared for my business,” says Christine Staley, who owns Magic City Hoagies in Minot. “I was coming from a place of solutions, not fear, trying to make sure everyone was taken care of.”
In fact, days earlier, Staley’s concerns were elsewhere. North Dakota schools closed for in-person instruction March 16, 2020. Staley’s 10-year-old daughter, Paisley, was worried for her “friends that don’t get a lot to eat.”
Christine jumped to action, closing in-store dining to make free meals for kids. The free meals were offered to all Ward County grade school students, no questions asked. Meals included a sandwich, veggies, fruit and a fresh-made Magic City Hoagies cookie and were delivered curbside to families.
At the same time, Magic City Hoagies, which is served by Verendrye Electric Cooperative, pivoted. The business added a delivery service and an online ordering and payment system.
“It took a lot of maneuvering, but you’re always learning and problem-solving in business,” she says.
QUALITY OF LIFE
With the hospitality industry hard hit from the onset of the pandemic, other businesses and community members rallied in support.
Verendrye Electric Cooperative, which serves areas in and around Minot, including about 30 restaurants, looked for ways to help. The board approved purchasing $10,000 in gift cards to support the local restaurant industry. And with a who-else-can-we-help attitude, the cooperative turned those gift cards around to aid the community and make a larger impact.
The cooperative asked the public to nominate deserving local nurses on social media, ultimately feeding 100 nurses with lunch from Mi Mexico, a popular Minot restaurant and Verendrye Electric Cooperative member. The co-op branched out to rural communities, too, paying for a free burger and fries for the first 100 members at Velva’s Star City Golf Course and Restaurant. Plus, numerous gift cards to local restaurants, like Magic City Hoagies, were given to local organizations providing vital community services, including the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, YWCA and Minot Area Homeless Coalition.
|“The Hoagie Girl” and owner of Magic City Hoagies in Minot, Christine Staley|
“I’m proud of what the telephone and electric co-ops did in this pandemic,” says Randy Hauck, general manager of Verendrye Electric Cooperative. “We all get it. We’re serving this mainly rural demographic, some urban, but it’s more than delivering broadband or electrons on a powerline. It’s about the quality of life. How do you make sure you maintain that quality of life? You give back when people are hurting.”
That’s the foundation cooperatives are built on – a set of seven cooperative principles, which make co-ops different from other businesses. “Concern for community” is the seventh principle, meaning cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership. Essentially, co-ops “support local.”
“Buying local is so important,” says Tom Rafferty, who led Verendrye Electric Cooperative’s community relations efforts during the pandemic as member services and communications manager. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘When you ask for a donation to your little league team, you don’t call Amazon.’ You call someone that does business in your town.”
“Without locally owned business, it would be a huge change to our quality-of-life that we’ve enjoyed. And these events – Høstfest, the state fair, the list is a mile long – if you quit going to these events, they won’t be around forever,” Hauck says. “We want to preserve that quality of life. It’s the co-op way. It’s giving back to the communities we serve. We are all living in this pandemic, and we all want it to end, but if we don’t support local, it’s going to be pretty tough to get it back.”
THE MAGIC OF COMMUNITY
It was state fair week in 2013 when Christine and her husband, Ben, first visited Minot to interview for his funeral director job. The family moved to Minot that September. About a year later, Christine saw a local couple was retiring and selling their sub sandwich business. They wanted a buyer who was interested in keeping the sandwich concept.
“I didn’t have an idea for it to start, but I always wanted a food business,” Christine says. “From when I met (the previous owners), they were so close to their customers, and I knew I wanted to keep that.”
When the Staleys decided to go all-in, the previous owner helped Christine get a business loan, even walking her into his own bank and introducing her to his banker. Since then, Christine has grown the business and her connection to Minot.
“Everyone knows me as the hoagie girl!” she says. “I want Magic City Hoagies to be the community’s brand.”
It’s why walking into Magic City Hoagies feels like a celebration of the Magic City. Old newspaper clippings share the city’s history and milestones; Minot Minotauros hockey, N.D. State Fair and other event posters promote the city; travelers can grab tourism guides, local pamphlets and information; and a community posterboard is littered with benefit flyers, local events and offerings.
“I showed interest in people, and that’s how I met Minot. Community is really the most important thing,” Christine says. “Miami is also known as the Magic City, so I feel like I came from one Magic City to the other Magic City – but this is where my dreams came true.”