A Shopping Center is Born

Fargo developer envisioned (West) acres of shopping

By Marino Eccher, Forum Communications

 FARGO – One day in the late 1960s, a stranger tall, dapper, and driving a Buick Riviera  followed the dust and dirt of 13th Avenue South to the Rabanus family farm.

The man introduced himself as Bill Schlossman, the Fargo businessman and developer. He took a seat at the table and told Carl Rabanus , who had farmed the land for decades, that he wanted to buy part of it to build a shopping center.

Rabanus wasn’t entirely sure what Schlossman was talking about.

It was all so new to him, said Herman Rabanus , Carl’s son, a young man at the time. We had never done anything really like that, selling stuff to a developer.

And like most North Dakotans of their day, they’d never had much to do with a shopping mall.

Their farmstead was a mile outside of town. With the exception of Interstate 29 and a nearby set of railroad tracks, there was little evidence to suggest untapped commercial potential, let alone an impending development boom that would upend the geography of the city for good.

“There wasn’t anything out there” said Randy Johnson, a young contractor at the time who is today one of the mall’s owners. “It was all dirt roads and a big field.”

That’s what most people saw, anyway. Bill Schlossman saw something else.

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