women's small business month

This is the final article covering National Women's Small Business Month, highlighting the benefits and industry brought to communities by women in business.

Gael and Mindy Balsdon, Quilt 4 U

Gael Balsdon attended a long arm machine quilting show with a friend of hers a little over 15 years ago and remembers thinking she would never do that.

“Don’t ever say never,” warns Gael. She bought a small version and started doing long arm quilting at home. “I quickly decided that wasn’t enough of a machine. I wanted something bigger.”

Gael bought the bigger machine she wanted and put it in their Sports & Shirts store in 2006, launching Quilt 4 U. Her daughter-in-law, Mindy Balsdon, joined her in 2014.

“I fell in love with it,” said Mindy. “I love fabric. I love to see what people create and bring in.”

“That’s the best part,” said Gael, “the show and tell.”

When customers bring their finished quilt tops to the store, Gael and Mindy will help them choose the thread color and stitching pattern to be used to stitch the layers of the quilt together.

“If you want to personalize it, Gael has the machine to embroider it before it gets quilted,” said Mindy.

“We’ve done a lot of that,” acknowledges Gael. “Names, dates, weddings, births, baby blankets. We usually embroider on the front and then quilt it so the back side of the stitching isn’t seen on the back of the quilt, which is nice.”

COVID was a challenge in that it only made things busier.

“People needed something to do,” said Gael. “It’s a good hobby. A lot were finishing old projects. It was a little bit of a challenge getting enough batting. We started stockpiling it because it was hard to get for a while. Now it’s pretty good.” Quilt 4 U has polyester/cotton batting and cotton batting for sale that you can use in your quilt if you want.

Gael and Mindy want their customers to be happy. If they’re not, they will try to make it right.

“We always stand behind what we’ve done, and we will fix it if you’re not happy with it,” said Gael.

Quilt 4 U is located in Sports & Shirts at 203 7th Avenue in Langdon. They are open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Saturdays are by appointment only. The number at the store is 701-256-4200, and they also have a Quilt 4 U Facebook page.

“Some will call ahead and ask the store hours and if we’re taking quilts,” said Gael. “There’s a lot of places that are out 6 months before you get your quilt in. We are about 2-3 weeks.”

Their customers are from Langdon, nearby towns, and from as far away as Minot, Minnesota, Iowa, and Kentucky. Mindy travels to Cavalier occasionally and will deliver quilts if there are any ready to go.

“If they have stuff ready, they bring them to me and vice versa,” said Mindy. “If they need it before my next trip then they come up and get them.” Mindy also does some custom quilting for customers, making the quilt tops for them, quilting the layers together and binding the edges. Both Gael and Mindy make quilts for themselves and like giving some as gifts.

“It’s kind of fun to make a quilt and give it as a gift and watch the expression on the people that you give it to,” said Gael. “There’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of money put into them, but it always feels so good to give it.”

“We love what we do,” continues Gael. “It’s been a good combination for both of us. We get along really well.”

Mindy smiles. “She let me in, and I never looked back.”

Karrie Mikkelsen, Cavalier County Senior Meals & Services

Karrie Mikkelsen has been the director at Cavalier County Senior Meals & Services since 2013. She has been working at CCSMS for 21 ½ years starting out as the activities coordinator, bus driver, and kitchen helper.

“I remember walking into the Langdon Senior Center years ago because I had heard there was a job opening for an activities coordinator. At the time, Beatrice Delvo was the director, so she and I talked about the job. As we were chatting the senior bus pulled up outside of the building and Beatrice pointed towards the window and asked me if I thought I could drive that bus. I preceded to tell her that I drove truck on my dad’s farm for years. Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, and I knew the minute I had said it I shouldn’t have! I have been driving bus ever since.”

A year and a half into her new job, the bookkeeper moved away, and Mikkelsen took over that role as well.

“I remember when I started, I didn’t even have a computer on my desk,” she said. “Now we have 3 computers, 2 laptops, software tablets, and security cameras in all of our transit vehicles and 2 big screen TVs so that we can attend all of our zoom meetings, trainings, and webinars.”

CCSMS is a non-profit organization operating out of the Langdon Senior Citizens building at 211 8th Avenue. They offer in-house meals at the Center, home-delivered meals, frozen meals, and take-out meals. Meals are available Monday through Friday. Suggested donation for people over 60 is $5.50. Persons under 60 pay $8.00.

Anyone can eat at the Center, and it is great for socializing. Meals are served at noon. Home-delivered meals should start whenever a person who is home-bound feels that they can’t cook for themselves or when family members feel that Mom or Dad aren’t getting proper nutrition.

“Our biggest challenge is that people wait too long to utilize what we can offer them,” said Mikkelsen. “Don’t wait until you are weeks away from entering the nursing home to use our services.”

Grocery delivery is available to home-bound seniors on Tuesdays beginning at 1:00 p.m. Suggested donation for this service is $3.00. Foot care services are provided for people over 60. The cost of foot care is $25.00. Public transportation is provided Monday thru Friday. Since 2011, transportation is no longer just for senior citizens. Approximately 40 kids ride the bus throughout the week. The transportation coordinator, Carleen Schill, was named 2020-2021 Langdon Area Chamber of Commerce Employee of the Year. For more information on any of these services please call 701-256-2828.

CCSMS currently employs 7 people: a director, two kitchen staff, three transit staff, and a health care nurse. It is sometimes a challenge to find enough volunteers to deliver meals. There are currently about 20 people who sign up one week at a time. It takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to deliver meals.

CCSMS website is www.cavaliercountyseniormealsandservices.com and maintain two Facebook pages: Cavalier County Senior Meals & Services and Cavalier County Transit.

Mikkelsen said the best part of working at CCSMS is being able to help people in all stages of life.

“If we’ve been able to help just one person at the end of the day, we have done our job.”

Ronda Hoffarth, Carquest

Ronda Hoffarth knows parts and knows where to find them. She worked at and later owned and operated Universal Parts in Langdon for 28 years before managing Carquest.

“I came up here for a temporary job over at Universal Parts in 1986 for inventory,” said Hoffarth. “I started in November, was supposed to be done at the end of March, and they asked me to stay.”

Originally from New Rockford, parts was something she knew, growing up on a farm and working at the implement in New Rockford. After working at Universal Parts for 11 years, she became the owner in 1997. In 2014 she sold her inventory to Bill Roy, who was opening a Carquest in Langdon.

“At my age, you can’t pass up an opportunity,” said Hoffarth. “He has a Carquest in Cavalier, so he was interested in having one here.” Carquest is an automotive parts store, but they have so much more.

“We’ll sell you parts for automotive, lawn mowers, small engines, tractors, vehicles, trailers, big trucks, little trucks, whatever,” said Hoffarth. “We deal in a lot of older tractors, people restoring them. We have plenty of experience finding the old stuff.”

Hoffarth does a lot of research to find parts. She uses the internet, but her best bet is with the help of her long list of contacts.

“Sources that we’ve had for 30 plus years, even from over at Universal,” she said. “You get to know the people. You call them up, and they’re very helpful. If they don’t have it, do they have an idea of where I can get it?”

COVID-19 made finding parts a little more interesting.

“We’ve been very proactive here trying to keep ahead so we have had roughly a 97 percent fill rate,” said Hoffarth. “A lot of people don’t have that, but we’ll take the time to find it.”

“She does a really good job,” said Marilyn Shephard, “especially when you’re trying to find parts. I don’t know how she does it, but she finds them.” Shephard has worked for Chirstie Motors for 10 years and takes care of Carquest’s bookkeeping and office work.

With a smile, Hoffarth said, “Something I don’t have to do anymore, and I truly enjoy that.”

Carquest will also make hydraulic hoses, battery cables, and air conditioning hoses to specifications.

“We probably have the best selection of adapters and hydraulic ends in Langdon.” said Hoffarth.

Carquest is located at 101 9th Avenue East on the north side of Christie Motors. They are open 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays. They can be reached at 701-256-2158. They also have a Facebook page titled Carquest of Langdon.

Hoffarth says the people and the employees are the best part of the job.

“We’re here to help, and we’ll go out of our way to do what we’ve got to do.”

Nancy Becker, Junque Decor

Nancy Becker is one of those lucky people who took her favorite hobby and turned it into a business she loves. Junque Decor is a home decorating store brimming with antiques, new and refurbished furniture, and décor. Becker previously owned and operated a hair salon and started Junque Decor about 15 years ago because she was looking for something to do when she retired from cutting hair.

“When I decided to do this, we started out slowly,” said Becker. “I did a one-day sale for several years in a row while I was still in the salon. Since the trend of junk hasn’t slowed down, I just have continued to build on my first theory which was occasional sales.”

She retired and closed her hair salon about 7 years ago and moved her Junque Decor business to its present location at 904 3rd Street shortly after.

“My business has grown in many directions since I first started,” said Becker. “We added our greenhouse about 2 years ago.” Becker will create flower arrangements for funerals, adding personal elements for the family like flowers or greenery from their own yard and gardens.

Becker offered classes for her customers in the past and plans to start again.

“We are bringing back our classes where we put together and finish a project in one evening,” said Becker. “We’ve done a lot of different classes through the years- a lot of Christmas, painted wooden Easter eggs, pallet snowflakes.” She also offers a variety of seasonal classes using natural elements.

“You bring your own container, or you can buy a container, and we fill it with fresh greens and decorate them up,” she said. “We’ve done rock flowers, where you just take rocks and glue them to a piece of wood and make flowers, bumblebees, dragonflies, or people.”

Junque Decor is open every day during the greenhouse season and by appointment only the rest of the year. You can contact Becker for an appointment at 701-370-2639. She also maintains a Junque Décor Facebook page.

“A lot of people make appointments,” said Becker. “We have a very good following from out of town that come.”

Becker is the sole proprietor and does not have any permanent employees. When she hosts events, she has people that come and help. Her husband, Rob, does a lot of labor behind the scenes. Becker sidesteps some of the current merchandise and stock shortages by buying locally or stocking up on her annual trip south with Rob.

“I’m lucky. We go down with the semi to Texas, and I don’t come home until the semi is full,” she said, “And we still are buying, so if you are downsizing or you have an estate to clean out, give us a call.”

Becker has found that there are many aspects of her business that she enjoys.

“I like people, and it’s a good way to be around people,” she said. “I like my schedule and that I don’t have to be there every day. It’s not my intention to work full-time anymore, and I like what I’m doing. I’m really thankful for the support we get from Langdon and the surrounding towns because without shoppers, we can’t do these things. It’s great to have support when you live in a small town.”

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