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Around Town: Hey Ocean closing Grand Forks store

A women's clothing store in downtown Grand Forks is closing and will focus more of its efforts on its online presence.

Hey Ocean, which opened in February 2014 at 615 First Ave. N. after launching in Bismarck in 2011, is closing the Grand Forks store by the end of the month. Owner Michelle Kaufman said the decision was a recent one.

"We were going over all the numbers from the last year, and we just decided it was probably best for us to close that location," she said, adding that the store hasn't seen sufficient foot traffic. Hey Ocean focuses on West Coast styles with clothes, shoes and accessories.

The Bismarck store will remain open.

"It's just really hard to run a business from away," she said.

While Kaufman couldn't pinpoint one reason for the local store's struggles, her customers have said it's a bit off the beaten path of downtown's commercial district, and she's noticed fewer Canadian shoppers recently. She assumed that had to do with the increasingly less favorable exchange rate.

"We carry a lot of Canadian brands, so we were marketing that to the Winnipeg and Brandon area pretty heavily," she said.

The Grand Forks Hey Ocean is holding a sale coinciding with the closure, according to social media posts.

The Grand Forks store closing will mean that Hey Ocean will be able to focus more on web initiatives, Kaufman said. That means updating their website more often and making it more user-friendly.

New southside apartments

Developers of two new apartment projects on the south side of town hope they will be attractive to young families in the area.

Enclave Development is building four buildings as part of two projects: Latitude Apartments and Sonata Apartments. Combined, the two properties will include about 150 units.

The Sonata buildings, which are already under construction, are located at 3555 40th Ave. S. and 4050 S. 34th St., and the Latitude Apartments will be at 3655 Ruemmele Road. That's south of the retail corridor of 32nd Avenue South and near the future Discovery Elementary School and Kiwanis Park.

"I think both Sonata and Latitude will fill up with young families, younger families with children," said Austin Morris, managing partner for Enclave. "We'll probably get a mix of people, young professionals who want to be the near the action."

Morris said the apartments' "price point appeals to a wider range of people." He said the Sonata buildings will open in the coming months, while construction on the Latitude buildings is planned to start in May.

Amazon gets help from ND officials

North Dakota officials involved with developing the state's unmanned aerial systems industry consulted the online giant Amazon about its plans to test the aircraft to potentially deliver packages.

Robert Becklund, the executive director of the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, wrote in an email last month that he's not aware of any plans from Amazon to test UAS in North Dakota.

"Amazon did consult with us in detail quite some time ago and chose to pursue their own experimental certification due to the maturity of their internal UAS program as well as to better protect the proprietary research they want to conduct," Becklund wrote in an email to the Herald on March 20. "If they choose to do some of their research in ND, we could certainly assist them in whatever capacity they may need."

North Dakota was named one of the Federal Aviation Administration's six test sites for UAS in 2013. The test site is headquartered in Grand Forks.

Amazon, which has a facility in Grand Forks, received an FAA certificate to experiment with unmanned aircraft in March. The company is testing UAS delivery systems in Canada, according to The Guardian.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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