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Starboard doubles in size after 3 years: Dickinson apparel store moves across hall in Prairie Hills Mall

o-owners and stepbrothers Jeff Hafner, left, and Lenny Johnson, right, stand in front of Starboard.

After more than three-and-a-half years at their Prairie Hills Mall location, Starboard is moving.

Its new location opened Friday across the hall from the former location.

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“I can’t wait for people to walk in and see what this small business in Dickinson has become thanks to them,” said Lenny Johnson, Starboard co-owner. “At the end of the day, we’re here because of Dickinson.”

The new store is twice the size of the old one, which accommodates its growing and ever-changing inventory.

“It’s never going to stay the same,” Johnson said. “Whether it’s the trends, whether it’s the brands, it’s going to always, always change and evolve.”

Much of the inventory the store carries is based on customer requests. It has expanded not so much in the number of brands it carries, but by offering more products within the brands they already carry, co-owner Jeff Hafner said.

“Our first year, I don’t even know if we did coats,” Hafner said. “If we did, we did very few. … And now we’re ordering a phenomenal amount of coats because there’s a need there. We didn’t do gloves, we didn’t do base-layer Under Armour. As there’s been more need, we’ve expanded to what the people want.”

Three years and a new store location later, Johnson said Starboard is still discovering its brand.

“As we evolve, we’re trying to let the customers know that we’re going to continue to evolve,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to be pigeon-holed.”

Hafner and Johnson refer to each other as “brother,” but what many people don’t know is that they’re actually stepbrothers, Johnson said. Many people do a double take when he says he owns the store with his brother.

“We look more like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in ‘Twins,’” Johnson said. “We’ve been stepbrothers for so long that we are brothers.”

Hafner grew up in Beulah while Johnson came from the West Coast.

They are big promoters of shopping locally, and the majority of work and materials used to create the new store were provided by local Dickinson companies, Hafner said.

Even though Dickinson is growing and expanding westward, Johnson and Hafner wanted to keep Starboard in the Prairie Hills Mall because the location has worked well for them so far, and none of the other locations would have been near ready in time to accommodate their expansion.

Oakley is the brothers’ favorite brand they carry.

“I enjoy North Face. That’s a newer brand for us,” Johnson said. “But Oakley, you really can’t — there’s not much that they don’t do that they don’t do very well.”

The name came out of the logo that Hafner’s son designed.

“It all started with the logo,” Johnson said.

The idea for the store came out of a brainstorming session to help relieve some of the boredom Hafner’s teenage son was experiencing.

“Over time, it worked its way back into retail clothing,” Johnson said.

A lot of youth-oriented clothing stores had left after the last oil boom, creating a need, Johnson said.

“Dickinson didn’t have much shopping left,” Johnson said.

“At the time, there wasn’t an oil boom to speak of,” Hafner said. “So we were basing all of our projections off of the current population and what they were spending.”

Between the logo-inspired name and the trendy clothes they stocked when they first opened, everyone thought that Starboard was a skate shop, Johnson said.

“Currently, it is trendy to wear skate-branded clothing,” Johnson said.

“And really, the skate-branded clothing, the companies are so far off skate right now, they don’t care about skateboarding,” Hafner added.

A grand-opening celebration for the new store is in the works for after the holidays, Johnson said.

“In my perfect world, we would have had the grand opening the weekend that we opened,” Johnson said.


Address: Prairie Hills Mall, 1681 Third Ave. W.

Phone: 701-483-7827



Twitter: @shopstarboard

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206