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A different picture

Johnson looks to sell downtown consignment shop

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Pam Johnson, of Fort Dodge, poses with one of her companions, Sadie, a Bichon Shih Tzu, at her downtown shop, The Big Picture. Johnson is looking to sell the shop to pursue other interests.

When Pam Johnson opened The Big Picture in downtown Fort Dodge, she knew it wasn’t going to be long-term.

Johnson moved back to Fort Dodge about six years ago to care for her mother, Garnita.

“I moved back here mainly to help with my mom,” Johnson said Thursday from her consignment shop, which sells an eclectic mix of high-quality home decor, clothing, jewelry and works by local artists.

Johnson, a 1974 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate, has always considered herself a big city girl. Upon graduating from Fort Dodge, she went on to live in places like Kansas City, Chicago and eventually Minneapolis for 20 years.

She holds degrees from the University of Iowa and Texas Tech University. Johnson earned a master’s degree in education in 1980.

She worked at Loyola University Chicago for two years. While there she completed a master’s degree in industrial relations at Loyola. That led her to a career in human resources and consulting — mainly spent in Kansas City and most recently Minneapolis.

Johnson is a breast cancer survivor. About 14 years ago, she was diagnosed in the same year that her father died.

It was around that time, she said she was ready to leave the corporate world.

Upon returning to Fort Dodge, she worked as regional director of the Fort Dodge-based North Central Iowa Small Business Development Center for about a year.

Her decision to open The Big Picture grew out of that experience.

Johnson enjoys organizing the items in the shop. She completely flips the store four times year to reflect each season.

Her faithful companions, Sadie, a Bichon Shih Tzu, and Louis, a Yorkshire Terrier, keep her company. She likes to take them on their afternoon walk and makes sure they get plenty of treats.

“I really love meeting new people and seeing familiar faces,” Johnson said. “But I also like the thrill of the hunt and finding just the right spot for it (item) in the shop and putting it all together is very therapeutic and enjoyable for me.”

Johnson has used her platform as a business owner to encourage literacy.

She offers a free children’s library in her shop and provides discounts to educators.

Teachers and librarians get 10% off all merchandise all the time, Johnson said.

Most recently, she made a $475 donation to the Fort Dodge Community Schools Foundation.

And while she’s enjoyed operating The Big Picture, it’s time for her to turn the page.

Her mother passed away in October.

“I am ready to sell my shop,” Johnson said. “I really would like to see whoever takes it over to continue that community involvement.”

The size of the shop can be deceiving from the outside looking in. But on the inside, there’s over 2,000 square feet of space.

Johnson does have some advice for the next owner.

“What it needs that I don’t do and someone could be wildly successful here, we just need traffic,” Johnson said. “I am still not back to where I was before the pandemic. Someone has to do the whole social media package — and that’s not me. So I think for this to be sustainable, you could hire that out easy, I’ve just never done it. That’s a component I think will be critical for success.”

She added, “My regulars say this is my favorite shop in Fort Dodge but it’s really my inability to effectively get the word out.”

Johnson said she has met a lot of new friends and returning customers during her time.

“The people that I have met just through running the shop is just amazing,” Johnson said. “I have so many good friends now that I have met through the shop. It’s a lot of work if you want to keep it looking as nice as I’d like to.”

Johnson said she’s just ready to explore new interests.

“I am just ready to try something new,” she said. “I have a few new interests I want to explore further and spend more time by myself because this is a full time gig if you’re going to do it right.”

Johnson said she will help with the transition.

“I want to help with the transition however I can,” she said.

Johnson commended the other business owners and Main Street Fort Dodge for its work.

“The main street merchants — we work together and work hard to provide special events and it’s unfortunate that people don’t take more advantage of that to this point,” Johnson said. “But I think the future is bright for downtown.”

If interested in learning more about The Big Picture, call Pam Johnson at 612-940-3369.

The Big Picture, located at 704 Central Ave., is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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