Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

Johnson family's store in Bushnell continues to draw visitors from across the U.S.


Daniel Thompson

Johnson’s Surplus in Bushnell, NE draws travelers from across the country, especially on weekends during the summer.

With Bushnell Day fast approaching on August 17, the attention of residents of Kimball County has started to fixate on the small village and the festivities that will abound. However, there are hidden gems within the village that often get looked over the rest of the year. One of those gems being Johnson’s Surplus on 2nd Street.

Sally Johnson, who owns the business with her husband Mark, has worked hard over the last few years to re-model the inside of the store.

“We bought it about three years ago from the guy that lives next door. He passed away, and he left it to somebody else. We bought it from them. We started working on it and spent about a year working on it. I tore all the plaster off the ceiling, and I painted the walls. For one winter we put plastic up on the ceiling and then we started insulating. We just do a little bit at a time,” Johnson said.

Owning the business was a long held desire for the Johnson’s.

However, it took time for Mark to get on board with the idea at first.

“We’ve always wanted this, because we’ve been in different business. When this became available, my husband said no at first. He said it was too much work,” Johnson said.

However, after a brief period of time, they bought the business and started the task of collecting vast quantities of different items to keep the store stocked.

“We get donations, and we also used to buy storage units. You don’t know what you’re getting in the storage units. It’s just guess work. I have a basement full of stuff. I have a shed at home. The garage is full. I have a semi that is full,” Johnson said.

Among the various items stocked throughout the store are music boxes, dishes, cologne, cosmetics, books, records, and a wall full of movies that sell for one dollar each.

“I have my prices low enough that people can afford it, because we’re just a little town,” Johnson said.

The store also has a few offerings for children in the form of an assortment of children’s toys.

“I have tubs of toys that are a quarter or fifty cents for the kids. Kids can look through it and pick out what they want,” Johnson said.

The business also houses several antiques, including an old victrola from the early 1900’s.

“We have three antiques. We have an antique victrola and a shoe shine machine. The victrola is from 1915. You open the side door and crank it, and the top spins around. However, there’s a part that’s missing so we’ve been search for a replacement part so that we can get it to work. The shoe shine machine has a brush on one side and a polisher on the other. You can’t plug it in, because the cord is chewed up from years of use. You put a dime in, and it tells you to do that shoe first and then do this one because it polishes it for you,” Johnson said.

With many of the old antiques that have passed through the doors of the shop, it’s common for someone looking to restore and re-sell furniture and the older items to walk away with a modest profit for their efforts.

“When we first opened up, we had a gun cabinet in here. We had it for quite a while until this guy from Pine Bluffs came over and wanted it. He bought it and took it home. We sold it to him for $75, and he fixed it up and re-sold it for $350 or something. He really fixed it up,” Johnson said.

Though the store is tucked away in Bushnell, it still gets visitors from all over the states who travel down Highway 30.

“On Sundays we park our vehicle on Highway 30 and put up a little sign and people see it and pull off the highway. We’ve had people from Arizona, New Mexico, Las Vegas, Michigan and all different states. They’re traveling and they see the sign so they stop in and see what we have,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, there are a handful of people that stop by on a regular basis outside of the occasional out-of-state visitor.

“We have kind of a few steady customers, because every weekend I try and bring up different stuff. I change the products around. I put glasses up last weekend and put some music boxes up. I keep changing it, because people don’t want to come in and see the same thing every time,” Johnson said.

Although the store may not get as many customers or have as big a following as shops in the bigger surrounding cities, that doesn’t face Johnson at all.

“I like working here. I’m not giving up. Nope. Business goes in spurts. One week you got loads of people, and the next week you don’t get anybody. I don’t get discouraged. There’s always somebody coming in off the highway every weekend, because they see our sign,” Johnson said.

The official business hours for the store may be listed as 11a.m. to 4p.m. on Sundays. However, Johnson strives to be accommodating to potential customers, offering to come to the store whenever needed.

“I tell everybody that if they want to come in and look or whatever, my number is on the door, just call us, and I’ll be there,” Johnson said.

Anyone interested in looking through the collection of items housed in the store can either drop in during the usual hours on Sundays or call Sally Johnson at 1-308-230-0763.


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