Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

JCPenney in Mott


On this date in 1929, the Bismarck Tribune announced that a new building in downtown Mott was to begin construction. It would house a theatre and a JCPenney store.

James Cash Penney opened his first store in 1902 in Wyoming. In 1914 he expanded, opening three North Dakota stores in Fargo, Wahpeton and Grand Forks. Fargo, population 14,000, was the largest community to have a J.C. Penney store. Penney preferred smaller towns for his stores, which served mostly farmers and ranchers.

He kept opening more stores in the state, and despite suffering greatly from the Great Depression, he still opened the new store in Mott in 1930. It would be one of the last JCPenney stores to open in North Dakota. In 1933, Mr. Penney spent two weeks in the state, visiting every one of his 34 stores here. 

The first JCPenney to close in North Dakota was the Hillsboro location in 1939. In the 1950s, as the population of the state declined, the hard decision was made to close more stores, including the one in Mott. Despite this, Mr. Penney cared deeply about his North Dakota stores, and even visited the stores in Minot and Harvey in 1960.

At first, the company was resistant to move into malls, even though most of the competition was doing so. It wasn’t until 1978 that the first North Dakota JCPenney, in Grand Forks, moved from its downtown location to a mall. In 1979 the biggest JCPenney in the state opened in the West Acres mall in Fargo. In 1983, the company became more focused on malls. By 1993, that led to the closure of many of the state’s JCPenney stores.

The last North Dakota JCPenney still in its original building closed in Wahpeton in 2017. It had just celebrated its hundredth birthday in 2014. As of 2020 there are only five North Dakota JCPenney stores remaining -- in Williston, Minot, Bismarck, Grand Forks, and Fargo. The Williston store is the only one still in a downtown location.   

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


Althoff, Alexa. “J.C. Penney in Williston to Celebrate 100 Years of Business Friday,” Williston Herald. Williston, ND. April 7, 2016. 

Kruger, David Delbert, “James Cash Penney and His North Dakota Stores,” North Dakota History, Vol. 77 No. 3 & 4, 2012.

Olson, David. “Wahpeton J.C. Penney Marks 100 Years,” The Fargo Forum. Fargo, ND. March 31, 2014. 

Unknown Author. “Penney to Occupy New Mott Building,” The Bismarck Tribune. Bismarck, ND. May 8, 1929, page 3. 

Prairie Public Broadcasting provides quality radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.
Related Content