TRUMAN, Minn. (KARE) – Small rural towns die one storefront at a time. Truman, Minnesota has a main street lined with ghosts.
Gone are the drug store, the gift shop, the jewelry store and bakery. Missing too are the movie theater, the hardware store and the Ford garage. The town of 1,200 people was once blessed with three grocery stores. When the last one closed its doors last summer, picking up a few items for dinner suddenly meant a 30 mile round trip south to Fairmont.
Truman was in need of a superman. What it got was an even better boy.
“I more or less woke up one night and decided I was going to give this a whirl,” said Nick Graham, owner of the newly reopened Main Street Market. Nick is 17-years-old.
“It’s just amazing,” said customer Vernon Wille.
Perhaps even more amazing, is that it took Nick this long.
“When I was probably 15, 16, I almost bought a hardware store in Armstrong (Iowa)” said Nick. “A year prior to that, I attempted to purchase a restaurant.”
“He’s always been very ambitious,” said Nick’s grandmother Dot Graham.
Nick just seemed to grow up more quickly than other kids, according to Dot. “When you lose a parent at that young of an age it’s very hard.”
Nick’s father was killed in a snowmobiling accident when Nick was four-years-old. “He and his Dad were very close,” said Dot. “It was hard on all of us.”
In the years that followed, Nick began squirreling away the quarters his grandparents gave him for candy. Later he began banking the money he earned on his grandparents’ farm. Saving, for something. Saving, it turns out, his town.
“Isn’t that something,” proclaimed Eva Kelly, a Main Street Market customer. “I’ll tell you, the kid deserves a medal.”
A kid who dashes between grocery store deliveries to the Truman High School to finish his senior year classes.
A kid who negotiated a store purchase while playing tackle for the football team, then convinced a teammate’s mom to quit her job to become his manager.
“He shingled my daughter’s house this last summer,” said customer Bev Mohwinkel.
And when the grocery store freezer needs fixing, Nick tears that apart too. He does it, because Nick is a kid who doesn’t know the word “can’t.”
“The other day we were in the restaurant and things were getting busy and he just took over and helped serve food and cleared the tables,” recalls customer Barb Mager.
And the busiest kid in Truman isn’t through yet.
The doors weren’t even open on the grocery store, when Nick started making calls to universities.
“I’ve been trying to find a pharmacist for probably six months now,” said Nick. His next goal: putting a drug store back in the empty space across the street.
“Are you going to start the drug store?” asked an excited Mary Peterson as she happened upon Nick while shopping. “No, but I’m looking for somebody to start it,” answered the 17-year-old entrepreneur. The hug she gave Nick speaks to a long-struggling town with shelves newly stocked with hope.
“It’s like a miracle,” said customer Luverne Stade. “You know the people just can’t believe it.”
For years, Truman has watched its most promising young people depart for bigger cities. Yet here in their little grocery store the most ambitious of them all is pouring his whole heart into staying put.
“He didn’t think of himself,” said Carl Vogt of the Truman Development Corporation. “He’s thinking of the community and this is what makes him so unusual.”
Of all the opportunities in the Land of 10,000 Stories, Nick Graham has found his at home.
Nourishing his neighbors, and nurturing his town.