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Mitch Kramer turns part of Strasber’s “Blue Room” into a grocery store to address the issue of rural residents’ access to nutritious food



Bismarck, North Dakota – Finding healthy grocery options, particularly if the closest shop is outside of town, can be difficult, according to residents in small towns. Fortunately for Strasburg, a local businessman transformed his historic restaurant into a three-fold enterprise that provides the neighborhood with culinary options as well as many other services.

Lawrence Welk was born in Strasburg, North Dakota, which is well-known for its smaller rural population, Lawrence Welk, and of course, the famed Blue Room.

Kramer’s Grocery Store has rows of snacks and shelves of medicine now, but there is a rich history hidden behind those displays that customers claim they are still aware of.

“The original Blue Room was a pool hall. Then it became a popular movie theater. It was used for the movies, roller skating, weddings and get-togethers,” said Strasburg resident Gary Keller.

In 2016, Mitch Kramer bought the Blue Room and turned the restaurant’s back into Kramer’s Grocery.

With an outstanding past dating back to the 1910s, Kramer’s ability to transform the area into something the locals urgently needed: a grocery store, was even more impressive.

“It’s too easy nowadays to drive to a bigger town to buy their groceries. It’s cheaper, but in a small town, you’re paying for the convenience. It costs more for a small-town grocer to get their food here,” said Kramer, owner of Kramer’s Blue Room and Kramer’s Grocery.

As suppliers only supply food for large purchases, according to Kramer, a standalone grocery store would not be viable in his small town or many others.

He claims that this makes it challenging for many rural towns to get access to healthful foods.

“It’s hard. For these big companies, you have to have $1,000 to $2,000 worth of delivery for them to bring it to you. Otherwise, like me now, my fresh fruits and vegetables, my produce, I run over to Bismarck every Sunday to pick it up,” said Kramer.

Kramer can, however, meet supplier standards and keep his shelves fully supplied by combining his orders for groceries and restaurants.

Kramer’s grocery store has shelves on wheels, but you might never see them while you browse the aisles. However, those wheels are a throwback.

In order to create room for a wedding location evoking the Blue Room’s earlier days, Kramer is able to wheel his merchandise out of the business.

“It was a gathering place in the past, and it’s still a gathering [place],” said Kramer.

The Blue Room serves as both a memorial to the past and a proclamation of the future, reflecting the tenacity and inventiveness of rural American businesspeople.

According to Kramer and Keller, locals would have to travel around 10 miles to Linton to find a grocery store if the Blue Room and Kramer’s Grocery didn’t exist.