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The end of the Zandbroz era

Editorial | May 16th, 2024

Our opinion: Has Fargo lost its cool?

By Sabrina Hornung

sabrina@hpr1.com

On April 24, The Forum reported that Zandbroz Variety would be closing its doors after 33 years, and the announcement hit like a ton of books.

Upon hearing the news, long-time regulars and former employees, affectionately referred to as “Zandbrozians,” reconnected with fellow Zandbrozians sharing the news and eulogizing the space and the spirit of Zandbroz with the certain somber tone of finding out that a friend and loved one’s days were limited.

I used to work at Dakota Soda, the cafe/old school soda fountain in the back of Zandbroz, in what must be one of the most beautiful rooms in the city. When I was a new kid on the downtown Fargo block in the early aughts (which feels like a lifetime ago), I met so many great people, discovered a lot of great music, books, and had so many fantastic conversations behind that antique soda fountain.

There was a certain closeness to that space. You could walk into Dakota Soda as strangers and leave as friends or neighbors. There was a certain kind of soul to it and for some reason it felt like coming home.

I haven’t forgotten the time I cut my thumb open on a glass sundae dish. There was some blood involved. Renee took a look at it and offered to wrap it for me and said, “I’ve wrapped a number of sticks and twigs, but bones are another thing.” When you worked for the Danz clan, they treated you like family. When you came into work they were genuinely interested in your day, your milestones. And when one grieved we all grieved.

Zandbroz isn’t just a retail space. It’s an experience and a celebration of the creative spirit. It exudes warmth and inclusion.

I was a young MSUM art student and Renee inspired me: watching her creative process, eyeballing display spaces and asking for input, her eye for color and talking about the things that inspire her and the vision she would have for those famous store windows. Using everything from antiquities to sheet music, stencils, pipe cleaners and crepe paper — it was magic in action.

And Greg has such a wealth of knowledge and insight, whether talking about books, music, folk art or current events. As a collector, he has plenty of stories of interesting acquisitions and items that got away. They both certainly had an eye for the unique and the unusual. Upon reflection— if there was a Wes Anderson adaptation of Zandbroz, I wonder who he would cast as the Danzes?

I had a dream the other night that I was walking downtown on north Broadway. It was morning when things were starting to bustle. I wandered like a ghost past the Empire and past those iconic Zandbroz windows — the green crepe paper and fabric vibrant in the morning sun — and acknowledging that it wouldn’t be there forever.

It might be the end of an era, but as long as the trains are still stopping traffic, ideas and friendly chatter are shared, and as long as the tumbleweeds still gather in front of the Empire, the pigeons are skyward and the lights of the Fargo Theatre still twinkle overhead, we'll be fine.

Greg and Renee Danz, you’ve left a lasting impact on downtown Fargo. Thank you for those 33 years. May you find adventure, may it be filled with good books, fantastic art, unique treasures, colorful characters, amazing conversations and strong coffee.

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