EasTen Shopping Center: ‘This Is Our Time’

With virtually all spaces full and two new eateries on the pads north of Highway 10, EasTen offers a full shopping experience in east Moorhead.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Largely overlooked in the years-long discussion of redeveloping downtown Moorhead has been the steady revival of the EasTen Shopping Center. Says real-estate developer Dixon Diebold, who has owned the property since 2016, “Each time we’re done signing a tenant, they ask us, ‘Wow – where have you been?’
“It was a neglected area – a Frankenstein situation,” he remembers. ‘Just getting it working right was a huge undertaking.
“Now EasTen has the best occupancy it’s ever had. It’s almost where it should be. We’re almost there.”
Located at the corner of busy US Highway 10 and 34th Street, the mile-long strip mall has been quietly filling in its outlots and the storefronts that had been empty for so long. Today, 28 businesses occupy the 35-year-old shopping center. Only one small rental remains unoccupied, and Diebold expects the Eide’s Jewelry location will be filled quickly after the owners wrap up 33 years in business upon their retirement. He has also begun working on redevelopment of the former Tractor Supply Company building.
Overlooked? When the Edina-based developer acquired the shopping center from the bank eight years ago, the bankrupt property had long been in limbo. Constructed in 1990 by developer Rick Jordahl east of Kmart, the mall started strong. Festival Foods, now Cash Wise, helped draw shoppers to the new center, whose name was chosen in a local contest.
After Jordahl sold the property to a Florida real estate firm, however, the tide turned. Diebold cites the Great Recession of 2008, when property values plummeted and the economy faltered, as a source of the mall’s malaise. It went into bankruptcy in 2011, and indifferently managed by the bank that held the mortgage for the next five years. The biggest blow, however, came in 2015 with the closure of Kmart.
Diebold acquired the strip mall the next year. Involved in real estate investments since he turned 18 in 1998, he was keeping an eye out for foundering properties in Minnesota and surrounding states; he owns others in Waseca, Owatonna and St. Louis Park. “I go in, do a job, care about the property and turn it around. And it shows,” he says. “It has been paying dividends.”
Those dividends show. Both EasTen’s merchants and their customers seem to appreciate the upgrades. “The nationals,” as he called corporations looking for spots for expansion, have also noticed. Among them: Starbucks and Chipotle, the two new establishments that have chosen spots on the outlying pads between the shopping center and the highway.
Diebold’s first success, he says, was in landing Custom Express Car Wash, now rebranded as Tommy’s Express. While it opened its doors in 2021, the lead-up began much earlier with negotiations and then the demolition of an older business on the same site. “These deals can take a lot of time,” he notes.
That was true of Starbucks as well. “The nationals do a lot of real estate research before they commit,” he explains. “The study the traffic, the visibility, the co-tenants. They look around; here they see not only Cash Wise Foods and Runnings, but also Arby’s, Subway, McDonalds across the highway … and Target, Walmart and Aldies in the same vicinity.”
The result? Starbucks opened last year. That piqued the interest of Chipotle, expected to open soon next to the coffee shop. Both are in spaces that accommodate drive-through, as Arby’s and the car wash do. Other pads are still available, Diebold hints.
Success breeds success. While longer-term tenants like the Erwin Williams Paint Store, China Buffet, Sally Beauty and Star Nails have built established clientele, new neighbors have also been moving into the EasTen property. They provide a broad range of merchandise and services. Drummers Journey began selling quality drum sets to musicians in 2019 (and recently moved to a larger space). Hands Down Tile, says owner Chad Florsheim, opened just a week before the statewide business shutdown in 2020. “When I moved in, I wanted to be beside the road to Walmart,” he reports. “The front was mostly empty. Now, I’d like to be over there.”
Others have joined them: Verizon and T-Mobile phone stores, Jazzy and Mumbo’s thrift shop, and the latest, Clutch Automotive.
Only two stores have moved there from the Center Mall, where redevelopment has forced so many to find spots elsewhere. Prairie Bricks, serving Lego hobbyists, moved from the mall in 2022. FM Antiques and More left behind two spaces there and opened its new, consolidated shop in December; a grand opening is planned March 2 and 3.
“We’re not competing with downtown,” Diebold asserts. “I’m glad to see the Center Mall being redeveloped, and I wish Rogers success. The better that project does, the better EasTen will do. This is not a zero-sum game.”
Since buying the EasTen strip, Diebold has acquired several more properties in the area, including the Runnings facility and two restaurants across Highway 10, E Storeroom’s and the Boulder Tap House. “I bought it the day after it closed,” he confides. He’s looking for a national restaurant group to recognize what Starbucks and Chipotle already have concluded … including a daily traffic count of 30,000 cars passing on Highway 10.
“I think of this whole district as EasTen,” he says. “Shopping districts like this are the heartbeat of a community. With a bad heart, the community suffers. When a shopping center is sick, the whole community sickens.”
From the beginning, he has believed that EasTen had been overlooked too long by “the nationals” and, perhaps, by locals. No more. “No one saw the potential,” he suggests.
“I’m very excited about the progress we’re making here. This is our time.”

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