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Barn-shaped restaurant offers Buxton a gathering place

The BarN & Grill, located on Broadway in Buxton, N.D., was built two years ago where City Hall used to stand. The barn-shaped restaurant pays homage to the area's agriculture culture and has become a community center of sorts, said co-owner Craig Conner, shown in this March 3, 2017, photo. (April Baumgarten/Forum News Service)1 / 2
Craig Conner, co-owner of the BarN & Grill with Donny Nettum (not pictured), says the restaurant shaped like a barn has become a local hangout for residents looking for something to do in the small town of Buxton, N.D. (April Baumgarten/Forum News Service)2 / 2

BUXTON, N.D.—It's not every day one finds a big red barn in the middle of a city.

But in Buxton, a Gambrel-styled structure towers over most buildings along Broadway. From a distance, the building in the Traill County town of roughly 300 residents could be mistaken as a shelter for livestock.

But this is Buxton, and this isn't your average barn. It's a restaurant and bar. And it also serves a community gathering place in a small town.

"We joke around that you can say you are out in the barn," Craig Conner said. "You're not at the bar, you're at the barn."

Conner and Donny Nettum opened the BarN & Grill in March 2015, hoping to give locals something to do in the small town that is about 20 miles south of Grand Forks. After two years in business, Conner said the restaurant has had its ups and downs, but overall it does well and can attract a crowd on weekends.

Located at 307 Broadway, the restaurant stands where the former city hall once stood. That gave Conner the idea of opening his own restaurant.

"I just kind of wanted to do my own thing," he said. "Me and my partner were sitting around talking about it and it happened."

Conner and Nettum bought the former City Hall property, tore it down and built the large red barn that sits on the property today. The idea of building a barn-shaped restaurant was the pair's way of paying homage to the agriculture community, Conner said.

In fact, the bar has become a popular meeting place for farmers, ranchers and local organizations. The local Farmer's Union Co-op holds its annual meeting at the restaurant. Other organizations host training sessions for farmers as well.

Open 11 to 1 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, the duo wanted a place in town that could work on two levels: providing family-friendly offerings for lunch and dinner followed by nightlife after the grill closes at 8 p.m. Some residents will come down to hold birthday parties.

Another goal of the restaurant was to turn it into a community center of sorts, Conner said. Buxton used to have bingo nights, and after going on hiatus, the BarN & Grill owners talked to the city about getting a gambling license to give residents something to do. Starting in January 2016, the bar has hosted bingo at least once a month.

Other activities have included street dances, poker tournaments, painting events, bean bag toss tournaments and a bar olympics similar to the ones held in Grand Forks, Conner said.

"We just want to give people something fun to do," he said. "We just try to do different things."

The 6,400-square-foot bar's setup is flexible enough that tables can be moved to the side to clear up space for events indoors, a plus for North Dakota's harsh winters. And the burgers are pretty popular as well, Conner said.

Having a place that can serve food most of the day could help keep business in Buxton. The town lost its cafe several years ago, and though Kenny LaBryer tried to open up a sandwich shop in its place, it was closed in June after being open for four months.

The Triple VVV Bar offers lunch. Other than that, residents would have to drive outside the city for a bite to eat.

"For many years, you couldn't get anything after 2 o'clock," Conner said. "It gives a guy a choice. You don't have to go all the way to Grand Forks or Mayville (N.D.) to get something to eat. You can stay here."

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

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