An Interview with Wayne Barbot,Local Businessmanby Rachel Barbot, Dunseith, NDWayne Barbot is the ninth of thirteen children. He grew up on a farm near Lords Lake in Bottineau County, North Dakota. He attended college at Bottineau School of Forestry for two years, graduating with a degree in Business.What were your plans after graduating from the School of Forestry?I planned to attend North Dakota State University at Fargo and enter their ROTC program, but my funds were low, so I decided to take a year off and find a job. That's when I worked at Hosmer's Super Grocery Store in Dunseith as a carryout boy, stocker and produce manager. I was planning to leave when the manager made me his partner and, one year later, manager.How did you feel about being a manager at such a young age?I really didn't think about it too much. I wanted the challenge. I was 21 and the oldest worker there when I took over. We had a young crew with a lot of energy. I wanted our store to be the friendliest, cleanest and best-stocked in town.What were some of the problems you faced in the beginning?I knew some local people, because I had gone to church in Dunseith all my life, but I had to overcome my shyness to get to know my customers. That was hard, coming from a farm background, because we didn't get out much. Our store was only two aisles and 2500 square feet. I needed to have everything my customers wanted, which we couldn't do. Learning how to manage employees was also an experience.What were some of the roughest times when you first took over?My meat cutter quit without notice and I had to teach myself to cut meat. One time, I only had one employee left, so my sisters and brothers-in-law came over to help run the till and stock shelves. My family and wife were a great help, too.What were some of the changes you made to improve the store?I tried to fix it up as much as possible, but that was difficult with an old building. So after I bought out my partner in 1976, I started making plans to build a new store. We had outgrown our building and I felt my customers deserved a better place to shop. We opened our new 6,300-square foot store one block south of the old store in the fall of 1977.Did you have doubts about building a new store in a town the size of Dunseith?Yes, I was very nervous. Two competitors had also built new stores. We needed a lot more volume to make it. I worked hard along with my family and crew. Our customers remained loyal and we survived.What do you feel are some of your major accomplishments as a businessman?Owning and overseeing four stores at one time for six years. Also, building a new store and adding onto it 20 years later - doing these things not with a lot of intelligence, but just plain common sense and hard work, along with the help of God, family and friends.What do you think has been the most rewarding part of owning and operating a business in a small community?All the fine people I have met over 27 years in business. Many of my first customers have passed on, but I will always remember how they welcomed and encouraged me to stay and grow. I have enjoyed having my wife and children help out and work in our store. I have had many excellent employees through the years, sometimes two or three from one family, which was nice. It's great when they come back to visit.Do you have any last words to share?Yes, I have seen a lot of changes through these 27 years. We have tried to keep up with the times. I hope our business will be able to continue to provide service and employment to our community. We need to encourage more businesses to come to our town and support the ones we already have. Small-town businesses need to work together to keep towns from drying up. I could write a book on my experiences in this business. It's been great, all the people who have passed through my life. My family, my fellow businesspeople, employees and customers have given me a lot of memories. I hope that I have made some difference in people's lives. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.