Steve Johnson has become a fixture at the corner of Washington and North Fourth streets in Brainerd.
It is at that corner, protected by little more than canvas awnings and surrounded by fruits and vegetables, where Johnson has stood nine hours a day, every day since Memorial Day, to run The Country Stop produce stand.
Through rain, wind, heat, blaring train horns and the almost deafening noise of Washington Street traffic, he has stayed positive because, after all, he is doing what he likes best -- interacting with people.
"There's a lot of sights and sounds. The traffic is tremendous, in some cases too much," Johnson said. "But the best part of this job is you're kind of like your own boss, in your own domain and it feels good to have a busy day helping customers. And it's always nice to work in a place like this when you're putting out a good product."
He said the noise from the traffic only bothers him when he can't hear his customers.
Brainerd Dispatch/Matt Erickson
On Sunday, Steve Johnson, a seller at The Country Stop produce stand at the corner of Washington and North Fourth streets in Brainerd, helped two customers pick out vegetables. Almost every day this summer, Johnson has driven from Spicer to Brainerd to work the stand.
"Sometimes I drown it out and don't even notice it and sometimes it's overwhelming," he said, throwing in a few choice words for the train engineers who blare their horns for longer than he believes they should.
While Brainerd is his home base during the daylight hours, Johnson spends his summer nights in Spicer, where The Country Stop is headquartered, and every day he makes the 115-mile, two-and-a-half hour trek loaded with fruits and vegetables. Johnson's main residence is in Olivia, but he stays in a camper in Spicer in the summer.
Johnson described his business this summer as fair. While the large amount of traffic that passes his stand may seem like a boon, Johnson said it has hurt a bit because it makes accessing his stand in the Mobile service station parking lot difficult.
Worst job: Working at Jennie-O Foods in Willmar, cutting the legs off turkeys.
Ideal job: "Any job where I can interact with people, work with people and help people."
Best advice ever received: "From my dad. He said, 'Steve, if you're working for someone and they're paying you, you give 100 percent. If they're paying you to do a job, you do your job."
Playing on the radio during the 115-mile drive: Classic rock. "Right now I'm listening to Foreigner, Styx, REO Speedwagon and the Eagles."
Most proud moment: There are four such moments. "Being there when my kids were born."
If you have a suggestion for an Everyday People feature, contact Kathi Nagorski at email@example.com or 855-5859.
The Country Stop stand has made an impact, however. Johnson said he has a lot of repeat customers as well as a number of vacationers who are familiar with The Country Stop's other produce stands in Deerwood, Pine River, Park Rapids and Little Falls.
"I do get to meet a lot of people and everyone has just been so nice," Johnson said. "I've even met people who've asked me, 'Hey, aren't you they guy who used to sell in Park Rapids?'"
This is the first full summer Johnson has sold produce with The Country Stop. The previous 26 years were spent in a military career, 19 of which were as a full-time Minnesota Army National Guard member.
He got his start in selling produce in the early 1980s, after being introduced to it by the husband of a co-worker at Herberger's in Willmar. However, a full-time career with the National Guard meant Johnson could only use his 30 days of leave per year
to sell produce. He retired from the National Guard on Jan. 1.
He has at times had his four children -- Sarah, 25, Leah, 23, Benjamin, 21 and Luke, 18 -- help him out with the produce stand. Now that he is retired from the National Guard he spends his winters managing the American Legion Club in Olivia.
The Country Stop will be open through Labor Day. The produce stand will be back in the Brainerd area next year, and Johnson plans to be here too, but he said the owner of the Country Stop will be looking for a more "user friendly" site.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.