Only In North Dakota: Coffee Shop With No Employees Works On The Honor System


North Dakotans are hearing a lot these days about how our state is changing. And to be sure, there are a lot of changes, but most of what we hear about is the negative.

People claim that western North Dakota is being destroyed by oil development. We’re told that a surge in population has brought with it excessive traffic and spiking crime rates. Every week or so it seems like some national media outlet is doing one of those “dark side of the oil boom” stories.

So it’s nice to be reminded that there’s still something pretty quaint about living here. Like the fact that at most gas stations you can fill your tank before going inside to pay.

Or how about a self-serving coffee shop that runs on the honor system? Meaning you serve yourself, and pay for what you take?

It’s a pretty unique way to run a business in this cynical age, and it’s working in Valley City. The business isn’t profitable yet (not unusual for a new venture), but according to the owner people aren’t just honest. They’re downright generous. They’re paying about 15 percent more than the cost of what they’re taking.

It would be a mistake for North Dakotans to buy into the cynicism being pushed about our state (mostly for reasons having to do with politics and media sensationalism). This is still a special place, and our recent growth (both socially and economically) is enhancing that, not destroying it.