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Hometown heart: Langdon love

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The steeple at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Langdon, N.D. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
Linda Kempel, stylist at "Primped and Polished" in Langdon, N.D., puts the finishing touches on Margaret Chaput's hairdo. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
Tyler Bodnar is a third-generation owner of the Langdon Locker, the only federally-certified meat processing business for nearly 175 miles. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

LANGDON, N.D.—It's hard to travel through Langdon without hearing about its famous sausage.

When asking what places to visit while in town, residents will tell you to head south along the tracks to the Langdon Locker, where third-generation owner Tyler Bodnar and his crew of 12 make 3,000 to 3,500 pounds of smoked and garlic sausage on a weekly basis. They have a good following in North Dakota, but customers come from or have the meat shipped to Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana, Bodnar said.

"I think anybody that grew up around here or in the area and moved way, it's always one thing that they want to come back for," he said of the sausage. "It's been steadily gaining in popularity over the last 10, 15 years."

The little white brick building that houses the only federally certified meat processing business for almost 175 miles has a simple look from the outside, with only a sign identifying it as the Langdon Locker.

But a look inside brings customers back to the heyday of butcher shops. Workers wear white butcher jackets with paper hats, cutting meat carefully before packaging and labeling it to order.

Some of the meat processed at the Locker is purchased from local farmers and sold to customers, while other jobs include doing custom work for residents.

Winter is the Locker's busiest season, Bodnar said. In the first month of the deer rifle season, the shop processed 5,000 pounds of deer sausage, he said.

Customers could be seen walking in and out of the store, some asking for the usual delicacies. One patron wanted to buy pig heads.

The Locker is one of several businesses in town that have been passed down from family member to family member for generations, or they have stayed open for decades with different owners. The town of about 1,800 residents is almost 70 miles northeast of Devils Lake and 110 miles northwest of Grand Forks.

"We're up here by ourselves," said Jesse Johnson, who owns Sporty's Bar with his wife, Christa. "It's a pretty tight-knit community, just like any small town. We're just all family. We just like to support each other and keep everything as local as possible"

The couple took over ownership of the bar six years ago and changed its name, but the establishment has been at its Third Street location since the 1950s, Jesse Johnson said. The brick building is getting an addition that will double its size and allow it to have fine dining and another bar area, he said.

Construction started in September and is slated to wrap up possibly in May, he said.

"We don't have very many options for fine dining in Langdon, so it's needed," he said.

The downtown establishment that has a sports bar-style menu can draw crowds for sport events, Jesse Johnson said. North Dakota State University and UND mascot flags and memorabilia hang across the walls, and the staff try to serve delicious food, present quality customer service and put on a good atmosphere, he said.

"We try to give them a piece of Grand Forks or Fargo, just a little small piece of it in Langdon," he said.

Everyone knows everyone in Langdon, said Linda Kempel, who grew up near the town. She has been cutting hair in the same location—718 Third Street—for 45 years. The hair salon has changed names and ownership over the years, with Primped and Polished Beauty Salon taking over about six years ago, she said.

People in Langdon provide very friendly and warm company, she said. She noted many businesses in town may have different owners, but the services they provide have stayed the same, for the most part.

There also seems to be something to do almost every week, she said, from local sporting events to business promotions by the Chamber of Commerce. It's also close to the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area, Jesse Johnson said.

"It's just a great place to live," he said of the city. "We're a little off the beaten path, but it's worth a trip to check out."

Langdon is like any other small town in North Dakota, Bodnard said: It's close-knit, and residents are proud of the community.

"Everybody gets along with everyone, and people look out for each other," he said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

(701) 780-1248
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