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Booming bedroom communities: Small towns near Dickinson offer a quieter and cheaper living for area residents

Sitting just 12 miles northwest of Dickinson is the small town of New Hradec. With a population of just around 70 people, it isn't exactly big-city living. But residents there say they like it that way. Alice Bezdicek was born and raised in New H...

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Trace Hauck owner of H.T. Auto & Sales is among those who have recently opened up businesses in Taylor. (Sydney Mook/The Dickinson Press)

Sitting just 12 miles northwest of Dickinson is the small town of New Hradec.

With a population of just around 70 people, it isn’t exactly big-city living. But residents there say they like it that way.

Alice Bezdicek was born and raised in New Hradec and has seen her small town change a lot over the years. But she said that through it all a couple of things have remained the same: the people and the quiet.

“It’s quiet here,” Bezdicek said. “We have our home roots here.”

It’s something that many local bedroom communities, like New Hradec, Taylor and Gladstone, boast about. The taxes are cheaper, the roads are safer and the towns are quieter.

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Gladstone mayor Kurt Martin was born and raised in the Gladstone area and said that a big draw for people to move to smaller towns has much to do with where people came from originally.

“A lot of people that come to Gladstone and move to Gladstone, one of the first things they say is, ‘I came from a small town, I came from a rural place, and that’s where I want to be,’” Martin said. “Dickinson has its pluses but small towns also have their pluses. And I think southwest North Dakota has a good combination going.”

Taylor Mayor Russ Myran said that one advantage of being a bedroom community is having the “big city” options available to residents while still maintaining a rural community feeling.

“To me, Taylor is just an ideal little town,” he said. “It’s a nice quiet little town. We’ve got great people in town. Crime is virtually non existent (in Taylor). We have the advantages of having everything Dickinson offers and yet we’re almost a rural community.”

Opportunities for growth

With lesser populations, bedroom communities tend to struggle to get funds together for many projects that are often central to community living.

Martin said at one time, his town ran out of water. He said now the town of Gladstone is in a better position to provide for its citizens - and, by the way, it has water projects coming down the pipe.

After receiving Energy Impact Grants and the State Water Commission, Gladstone will be putting in a new water tank and transmission line in March, a $1.1 million project Martin hopes will help continue to bring more people to the town.

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Gladstone will also begin construction on a new fire department this spring.

“Gladstone had about four years where we got zero money from the energy boom and so it’s kind of frustrating that it came so late for us, but it puts Gladstone in a really good place, as far as future building,” Martin said. “Gladstone’s in an excellent place, as far as being a bedroom community for Dickinson. With the adequate water supply, I think it’s going to have some developers looking at it for some nice little family homes.”

About 10 miles northeast of Gladstone is Taylor, which sits along old Highway 10 and has seen a recent growth in population.

U.S. Census data from 2010 stated the town had a population of around 148 people. Myran estimates there are now around 220 people in town after a recent development was built on the east side of town, bringing with it approximately 20 new homes.

“For Dickinson, 20 new houses isn’t a big deal,” Myran said. “But for Taylor, 20 new houses is big.”

‘Business in a small town is tough’

Throughout its time, New Hradec has been home to many different businesses, including an ice cream shoppe and a grocery store that was owned by Bezdicek’s father.

Raymond Bren, who grew up around New Hradec, moved into the town with his family in December 1967 to open a bar. But, Bren said, the bar only lasted until 1974. It was a trend that happened with many businesses in the town.

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“There used to be the bar, grocery store, gas station, mechanic shop, post office and now everything is gone. The only thing that’s still here is the hall and the church,” Bren said. “But I don’t think it was frustrating to see all of that go. You just kind of get used to it.” 

While many businesses tend to struggle to stay afloat in small towns, Taylor has actually seen an increase in businesses in the town over the past few years.

Trace Hauck, owner of H.T. Auto & Sales, grew up a few miles north of Richardton, where he spent a majority of his childhood he moved to Colorado when he was 13 years old.

Hauck moved back to North Dakota in 1997 after finishing college because he said he liked North Dakota, and because he has many friends and family that live in the state. Now a Dickinson resident, Hauck decided to open his auto repair and sales business in Taylor about a year and half ago, right across the street from his mother’s home. 

The building, which sits on Third Street, was previously owned by Hauck’s grandfather, who built the building in the mid-1990s and then was later passed down through the family from Hauck’s uncle to him.

Hauck said the name H.T. Auto works in several different ways, including the name of his children Hailey and Tristan, as well as the name of his grandfather, Henry Thomas Myran.

Hauck said he expected business to be slow in the beginning because it often takes some time for someone to get their name out there to the public. But he added he had no hesitations about opening up a business in small town like Taylor because although there were many opportunities to start a business in Dickinson during the oil boom, he wanted his focus to be on the farmers and ranchers that have lived in the area for a long time.

“I heard so many people say, ‘You know, I can’t get anything done in Dickinson’ or ‘It’s going to be a month out to get anything fixed,’” Hauck said. “So I thought there’d be a good demand for it locally around here then. The oil comes and the oil goes, but the farmers and ranchers have been here for hundreds of years and they’ll be here for 100 more years. And I want to keep them going.”

Hauck isn’t the only new business that has popped up in Taylor in the past couple of years.

Rebel Customs also opened their doors in 2014. The machine shop, which specializes in cylinder replacement, is located on Main Street and is owned by brothers Ryan and Ross Rebel, whose parents own the Taylor Nursery.

Myran said the new wave of business in the town can be attributed to local people wanting to stay in the area and the demand being there as well.

“In both these cases, they’re for the most part locals, so I think that has a lot to do with it. But the demand is here,” Myran said. “Unfortunately, for a lot of years now, we haven’t had a restaurant or a grocery store in town, which kind of hurts. … But business in a small town is tough.”

Change of times, a change of crowd

Bezdicek said that throughout her time living in and around New Hradec, the one major difference she has noticed is the type of people who live in the town has changed over time.

Alice said she can remember a time when she knew every person in town and now that isn’t the case thanks to new homes going up across the road.

“I had a lot of grandmas and grandpas growing up,” Bezdicek said. “Now, everybody’s a lot younger. I think it’s a good thing to have a younger population because otherwise the place dies off.”

The change in population is something that has extended beyond New Hradec.

Myran said there were a lot of years that he said Taylor was in a downturn. The population of the town began to age quickly and there were not a lot of young people moving in.

But, he said that the developments around Taylor, such as the last oil boom, have helped to change that.

“Our population has got a lot younger,” Myran said. “I think the future of the town is bright.”

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