A Journey Through Time: Faulkner’s Market

6 mins read

EST. 1943

Faulkner’s Market was founded by Dennis and Hattie Faulkner, a young couple from Sauk Centre, MN. The market began its journey in the fall of 1943 amidst the challenges of the Great Depression, when the Faulkners brought their dream to life, starting with a humble vegetable garden. Through years of hard work, including overcoming natural disasters and personal setbacks, Faulkner’s Market has evolved into a beloved community staple.

Today, under the stewardship of Mark and Lynette Dagley, the market continues to embody the spirit and values of its founders. As Faulkner’s Market prepares to open its doors for the 2024 season, I had the pleasure of connecting with current owners Mark and Lynette, as well as former owner Elaine Faulkner Willenbring, to discuss its rich history, the legacy left by the Faulkners, and the market’s enduring impact on the community. 

Their Story

Below is the story of Faulkner’s Market’s origins. This account was previously provided directly by Elaine Faulkner Willenbring of Mandan, who is one of the daughters of the original founders.

The story begins with the Faulkner’s, 37-year-old Dennis and 27-year-old Hattie, coming to Mandan from Sauk Centre, MN, on their honeymoon during the fall of 1937. The couple had known each other for several years but delayed their marriage to save a little money. However, with the Depression’s end nowhere in sight, they opted to marry with a small “nest egg” in hand and began their life together out west.

At the time, Dennis was a trucker and hauled vegetables and fruit out of the Minneapolis area, often stopping at Mandan, before continuing his route. He always liked Mandan because the people there were so friendly. He thought Mandan would be a great place to raise a family.

Using their small savings to set up a starter home, the newlyweds rented a house in rural Mandan. Dennis continued trucking, but the money was so scarce that the couple could not even afford the three cents necessary to mail a Christmas card back to Hattie’s parents during that first Christmas out west.

So, by spring, for extra income, Hattie began a vegetable garden and sold produce to Mandan residents and stores, while Dennis continued his trucking route. By 1942, with Dennis out of the trucking business due to failing eyesight, the Faulkners had saved enough money to purchase approximately 10 acres of land on the west end of Highway 10, connecting the Memorial Bridge to Mandan. The couple later rented other parcels from the railroad and from the Sylvester family, which became Faulkner’s Market.

Buildings included a small barn, a shed or two, and eventually a small house, built by Dennis and a cousin, which was moved next to the store, where the couple eventually raised seven children, six daughters, and one son.

Faulkner’s Market officially opened in the spring of 1943, and business was fantastic due to its location next to the busy highway. But, in order to make ends meet for their growing family, the Faulkners operated a small grocery store at the market building and even sold Christmas trees and fireworks.

Flooding from the Missouri River was always a springtime threat for those living along the highway, but none were as devastating as the one in 1952. Because the house was built on a higher foundation than the market building, the muddy river water filled the market’s basement, while the shop itself was completely inundated. The family moved into Mandan during this period, which, according to their daughter Elaine, the children thought was a wonderful idea because they got to be “city kids” for a couple of weeks.

As the water receded, the family members went back to their home. It was a sad day for the Faulkner’s when they saw the dirty water and mud, as well as the stinking garbage, which had enveloped nearly all the buildings, inside and out. The cleanup was an exhausting job for the entire family, but especially for Hattie and Dennis who worked at it every day while the children were in school.

As horrible as the 1952 flooding was, at least one very good thing happened that year as a result of all that extra moisture in the soil. The Faulkners enjoyed their biggest vegetable crop ever!

The opening of the Garrison Dam in 1954 assured that such flooding from the Missouri River would never again occur on The Strip, and many good years followed for Faulkner’s Market.

After Dennis died in 1966, Hattie was determined to continue with the Market, but more changes came in 1975 when the city of Mandan annexed the entire “strip” from Mandan to the Memorial Bridge. Many flood-damaged buildings in the area were condemned and demolished, including the old Faulkner’s Market building. Another much-improved and larger metal building was soon constructed on the same site.

Daughter Elaine bought the property after the death of her mother in 1993 and she continues the family tradition from April through June of each year, with the assistance of her husband, Roys, and a few part-time helpers. A greenhouse was also added to the back of the building in 2003, and Roys assisted in tripling the market’s size during their time of ownership.

When asked why, after 65 years, she has continued the Faulkner’s Market, Elaine said, “I’ve simply loved watching plants grow but, just like my parents, I simply enjoy seeing these loyal customers return year after year, along with their children and now their grandchildren.”

A New Era for Faulkner’s Market

Did You Know?

Faulkner’s Market’s motto is “Sow Generously-Reap Generously,” which they put on all of their seed packets.

Mark and Lynette Dagley, the current owners of Faulkner’s Market, became acquaintances with Elaine and Roys Willenbring over decades of supporting the business. “We’ve patronized their store since the mid-eighties,” Mark said. “Around 2008, Elaine mentioned to us the opportunity to grow and supply her with vegetable starts that we could sell at the store. It was a chance for us to make a little extra cash and utilize our large garden space out on our country farmstead.”

After a few years, Elaine mentioned to the Dagleys that she was planning her exit strategy from the business and was looking for someone who she felt could continue the store. While she had offers to purchase Faulkner’s Market from those who wanted to raze the business and put it in storage facilities, she didn’t have the heart to do this to her historic and familial homeplace, where most of her memories were forged. Bismarck-Mandan “needed to have a bulk seed store for the community.” It was her passion to preserve that for her customer friends and future gardeners for years to come.

“After we promised to continue the Market, Elaine and Roys sold us Faulkner’s Market in November of 2011, and we’ve had 12 successful years of operating the store,” the Dagleys said. “Faulkner’s Market has had such a great reputation and name over the years, that we could not even think of changing the name of it. Besides it is in the hearts of the people who always have known it as Faulkner’s Market. Our first two years were under the watchful eye of Elaine, who showed us the ropes and walked us through all the aspects of the business.”

Since taking over the business for Elaine and Roys, the Dagleys have concentrated on giving sound garden advice, value, and variety to customers both old and new. Around this time, the general public was becoming more health-conscious about what they were putting in their bodies, with an increased focus on homegrown organic foods, according to the Dagleys. Despite home gardening making a comeback over the years, the business has continued to grow.

“Ben, our son, and Hannah, his wife, expressed interest in the store,” the Dagleys said. “They have been managing the store since about 2015 with ever-increasing involvement. We want to maintain a small, hometown, customer-driven business that our friends, the public, find to be welcoming, homey, and helpful.”

In April of 2018, Faulkner’s Market faced a tragic fire that had completely destroyed the 150′ greenhouse, which was fully stocked for the season. The Dagleys, not wanting their customers to be disappointed at the beginning of their season, replanted tomatoes and peppers immediately, while Ben outsourced more products from other greenhouses. “[Ben] and the crew even quickly built another greenhouse behind the store amidst all his other duties,” the Dagleys said. “It was amazing the support from all our customer friends who rallied around us. They even hosted a pie auction fundraiser to help us recover.”

"We have 7 children and 39 grandchildren. They all love, after getting schoolwork done, to work in the greenhouse with the plants and beautiful flowers, plus have a chance to do things with their cousins and earn a little money on the side from grandpa and grandma."

Over the last several years, the team at Faulkner’s Market has been adding more temporary greenhouses to accommodate the ever-growing need in the Bismarck-Mandan region. “We have customers from all over North Dakota and surrounding states,” the Dagleys said. “Customers make sure to stop by whenever they need to come to Bismarck for checkups, shopping, or any other reason. Of course, during garden season, coming to Faulkner’s is a reason in itself.”

Now, the team is actively involved in seed germination testing, packaging bulk seeds, permitting and erecting temporary greenhouses, and growing onions, petunias, marigolds, and more for a promising season ahead.

Faulkner’s Market opens for the season on April 1, 2024.

Faulkner’s Market

Facebook | /FaulknersMarket
2309 Memorial Hwy
Mandan, ND 58554