Dakota Datebook

Nash Finch Company

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


After working in his father general’s store for several years, Fred Nash opened his own small candy and tobacco shop in Devils Lake in 1885. Business soon took off, and he enlisted the help of his brothers Edgar and Willis. He purchased a second store in Park River, and put his brother Edgar in charge there, while Willis took over a third store in Devils Lake. In 1887, a fire destroyed the original Devils Lake store. The brothers sold the remaining two stores and bought a larger store in Grand Forks, which had access to two railroad lines and thousands of additional customers. Within months, however, the new store also burned down.

While contemplating their future, a railroad car arrived that changed the brothers’ lives forever. The car was loaded with peaches, of all things, but peaches without a buyer. The Nash brothers were able to purchase the entire load for a song, but it was more peaches than they could sell in a single store. They “…hit the road, selling orders to local stores and stores in nearby towns.” And so it was that the brothers found themselves in the wholesale food business.

Within a few years, they were the largest fruit and grocery wholesaler in the region. At the time, tea was especially in demand, and orders came in from as far away as Montana for the Nash Brothers’ tea.

In the 1890s, they met and hired Harry Finch to clean fruit; by 1896, Finch had become a manager. In 1919, the partners “…thought it necessary to move its headquarters to a location more accessible to the nation’s fresh fruit and grocery markets.” So on this date, they closed their Grand Forks store for the last time and moved to Minneapolis.

Today, the Nash-Finch company has grown to become the second largest wholesale food distributor in the country, with annual revenue close to five billion dollars.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job








This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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