Historic downtown Fort Dodge is being reborn as a home for an eclectic array of specialty shops. Kathy Ford's decision to open Hodge Podge Gifts & More at 925 Central Ave. is a continuation of this rapidly growing repopulation of the city's traditional commercial center with a diverse collection of small businesses.
Ford said this trend needs the strong support of Fort Dodgers and folks from nearby communities if it is to flourish.
"I think people need to realize that downtown is here," she said. "There are a lot of small businesses trying to make it. (People) need to come in and look around."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Kathy Ford, owner of Hodge Podge, located at 925 Central Ave. in downtown Fort Dodge, looks over some of the crafts available in her shop.
Ford's new business accepts consignments, has rental space for a multitude of vendors and markets a variety of handmade products that are the work of the owner.
"It's kind of a hodge podge of vendors," Ford explained. "I have about 15 different people in here that bring in their own wares or their own crafts. A lot of it is homemade. Some of it's boughten. We've got national brands - Avon, Watkins ... Rada Cutlery. Then I've got purses and jewelry. And I've got homemade quilts. And I've got home-painted glasses, wreathes, candles."
The merchandise personally designed and made by Ford includes candles, signs, ornamental pictures, wreathes and a variety of craft items.
She said her store appeals to customers in part because the product mix is diverse and there is constant change in the inventory.
"I may have a vendor move out who does butcher knives and then someone come in who does wooden crafts or rag rugs," she said, underlining that point.
Ford said the store is attractive to vendors who may not be a point in the evolution of their businesses where opening their own store is the right option.
"People don't want to do a store or be here to sell their merchandise, so I do it for them," she said.
Hodge Podge Gifts & More opened July 10 and is poised for growth. Ford said additional vendors can easily be accommodated and are welcome.
Display space is available for people with merchandise to sell on a month-to-month rental basis. When items are accepted on consignment, Ford said the store retains 35 percent of the price for which they sell.
While Ford's current venture is new to Fort Dodge, she has long experience owning and operating this type of enterprise.
"I had a store in Manson for eight years - Candles by Kathy & Much, Much More," she said. "It was about five times this big and I had about 50 different vendors in there. Some of the vendors that have come here were there with me. We sold the store in 2011."
Ford and her husband, Glen Ford, subsequently moved to the Fort Dodge area, which is something of a homecoming for her. She is a 1974 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High.
Glen Ford works for Fort Dodge Asphalt and his wife characterizes him as her "silent partner" in this newest commercial venture.
"He is my backbone and my support," she said.
Ford said she is enthused to once again be a business owner because the interaction with customers, consignors and vendors is exhilarating.
"Meeting people, taking care of people, helping them," she said, reflecting on what she most enjoys about running the store. "The vendors - I consider a lot of my vendors my family. A lot of them I've known for 12 to 14 years. I just like meeting people and talking to people."
As for the hardest part of opening a new shop, Ford said getting potential customers in the door for the first time is a challenge.