After 45 years, Forbes’ 'People's Store' has changed hands but the sausage remains

Victoria Lusk
Special to the American News

People putting people first.

It’s not a new concept. In fact, a grocery store in Forbes, N.D., has had that practice since its conception in 1974.

The People’s Store opened Oct. 29, 1975, as a “people helping people project” endeavor that cumulated into nonprofit grocery store operated by a voluntary board of directors. It was made possible by a $40,000 grant from the Aid Association for Lutherans.

In the 1970s, Forbes was home to nearly 90 residents, while the 2018 census showed a population of just 48.

“Forty-five years we were in the business,” said Ted Wolff, resident and the chairman of the board that operates the store. “Between then and now, many things took place. Some good, many not so good. But I enjoyed every minute of it.”

So what’s kept the store open? Sausage.

“After we got going in the sausage business … our financial problems were over. We earned a reputation of good sausage, which was sold over a large area and many states,” Wolff said.

The People’s Store sausage was made from Wolff’s grandmother’s and mother’s recipe, one that the family had been using for decades. For many years, Wolff, his wife Karen, his brother Christ Wolff and his sister-in-law Leona Wolff were the sausage makers. In March 2019, Wolff and his wife stepped away from the sausage side of the business due to age and health, he said. Both Christ and Leona Wolf have died, he said.

“I didn’t want to quit,” he said. “I started as the president of the board when I was 40 years old. I’m now 85 and still the president of the board.”

When the Wolffs stepped away, The People’s Store underwent new ownership with NaTanya Olson taking over. It was also renamed The Forbes Store: Olson’s Mercantile.

“I stayed with her until she knew about the sausage,” Wolff said. “She is doing a great job, and we wish her much success. We, again, would like to give the community a heartfelt thanks for all of the support.”

While the hands that mix the family recipe together have changed, the people-first mentality and the sausage still remain.

The former People’s Store in Forbes, N.D., has a new owner and a new name — The Forbes Store: Olson’s Mercantile — but the same sausage.