Happy Harry's Bottle Shops to celebrate 75 years in business with free classic movies

Central package Store.jpg
A view of the Central package Store on DeMers Ave, circa 1965. (submitted photo)

A well-established Grand Forks business is gearing up for its 75th anniversary by preparing an offering for residents of Grand Forks and Fargo.

Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops will celebrate its anniversary on Wednesday, Oct. 16, marking 75 years in operation in the region.

To celebrate, three days of free classic movies will be offered at the Empire Arts Center at 415 DeMers Ave., and the Fargo Theater, at 314 Broadway N., #4715.

The movies are from the year 1944, the same year that “Happy” Harry Gershman started the Central Package Store on DeMers Avenue in downtown Grand Forks. Oct. 16 marks the day the store opened.

“I just thought celebrating the year 1944 with the movies was nostalgic, bringing people back to when my dad started the business,” said Hal Gershman, president of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops. “It just seemed to be a nice thing to do. … To see the old classics on a big screen is just so much fun.”


Gershman recalled a fond memory of building a wine rack at his father’s shop, after he began working there when he turned 21. He noted that the shop didn’t carry much wine at that time.

“I suggested to my dad that I wanted to build a wine rack for German wines, he said go ahead and do it,” said Gershman. “I was very proud that I had this little wine rack made. … It did quite well and he was happy with that, but my point being that he let me do those kinds of things.”

Gershman said that was an important lesson he learned from his father.

“I’ve taken that position with my wonderful staff …. Those folks are better retailers than I ever was, I’m serious,” he said. “I wasn’t bad, but they are really great.”

For the anniversary celebration, two movies will be screened each day for three days at at both theaters, with slightly different lineups.

"Arsenic and Old Lace" will have showings at the Empire Arts Center at noon and 5 p.m., and "To Have and To Have Not" will be shown at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, "Double Indemnity" will be shown at noon and 5 p.m., with "Gaslight" being screened at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 18, is the final day of free showings in Grand Forks, with "Meet Me In St. Louis" screening at noon and 5 p.m., and "House of Frankenstein" being shown at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.


The free showings continue in Fargo starting on Oct. 21, with "Arsenic and Old Lace" showing at noon and 5 p.m., and "Double Indemnity" being shown at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 will see "Henry V" being shown at noon and 5 p.m., and "Gaslight" screening at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. The free movies will wrap up on Wednesday, Oct. 23, with "To Have and To Have Not" showing at noon and 5 p.m., and "House of Frankenstein" at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Hal Gershman took over the business in 1976 and expanded it to two locations in Grand Forks and three locations in Fargo.

In 2015, the store became 100% employee owned. The Happy Harry’s Stock Ownership Plan was established by the Gershman family, Hal, his wife Kathy and their daughter Leonora.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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