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Nash Finch


As we gathered together with friends and family this past holiday season, many of us enjoyed the inevitable feast; pumpkin pie, turkey, sweet potatoes, green-bean casserole, sweet corn and ham. But, as we went through the grocery store picking up the needed items for these elaborate meals, few of us stopped to think about how the food in the store actually got there. Granted, living in an agricultural state we recognize the importance of the farmer in the grand scheme of food production. We also understand the importance of food processors, taking Dakota products and making them into something new; such as flour for dinner roles or ham for the Christmas feast. However, there is another crucial component to the food industry that we often forget; the food wholesaler. Rarely do grocery stores contract directly with farmers or the various food processing factories to get the items crucial to any holiday banquet. Instead, they buy from a wholesale food distributor.

One of the nation's largest is Nash Finch. Carrying food throughout the Midwest, their trucks are a regular sight across North Dakota's highways and byways. Today Nash Finch is a Fortune 1000 Company, boasting over $4.5 billion in annual sales. However, this mega-corporation made its start back in 1885 as a humble candy and tobacco store in Devils Lake, North Dakota. The original store was founded by Fred Nash, a Vermont native born on this date in 1860. Fred's business soon became too much for one person to properly manage, so Fred asked his two younger brothers, Edgar and Willis, to assist in its operation. For the first four years the company stayed in the retail business, selling their products directly to eager customers. But as the new state of North Dakota grew, the brothers noticed that there were more food products available than they could possibly sell. They quickly recognized the potential for expansion and profit should one buy all of the available produce in bulk and then sell the wares to retailers instead of directly to the public. The Nash Brothers' wholesale business was a booming success. As the company grew, the Nashes realized their company needed to move closer to an area with larger financial institutions. In 1918 the company moved from North Dakota to its new home in Minneapolis.

Today Nash Finch is no longer a North Dakota company. However, this major corporation and established national food distributor owes its birth to the North Dakota prairies and the vision of three brothers from Devils Lake.

Written by Lane Sunwall


"The History of Nash Finch Company", www.nashfinch.com (accessed December 29, 2008).

Nash, John. ed. Lane Sunwall. Edina, MN, 2008.