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Blue House on Main now open in downtown BE

Named after owner’s dream of having a blue house in Venice, Calif.

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Feb 21, 2021

Renee Johnson may be a native of New Jersey but she now calls the Blue Earth area her home. Johnson is using her knowledge of the fashion industry to provide affordable clothing options for women in the area.

Blue Earth has a new business on Main Street ready to meet the fashion needs of the area’s female population.

The Blue House On Main opened for business last week. But the store’s owner, Renee Johnson, began her story far away from the farmland of Faribault County, because she was born in New Jersey. However, everything which happened to her after she left New Jersey had a part in bringing her to Blue Earth.

“I was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, and graduated from high school there,” Renee says. “My father was a psychiatric nurse and my mother was an entrepreneur.”

But if you go into her store expecting to hear a “Jersey” accent, you will be disappointed.

“There are still a couple of words I have to be aware of which I might pronounce with a little bit of an accent,” Renee admits. “But otherwise it is not noticeable.”

She graduated from high school in 2004 and then went to a Bible school in Florida for one year.

“I found out it was not the school for me so I returned to New Jersey and went to Montclair State University,” Renee comments. “I decided I wanted to be a teacher.”

She graduated from college in 2009.

“Finding a teaching job in the New Jersey school system was tough,” Renee shares. “I was able to get a job at a gymnastics franchise called ‘The Little Gym’ and I taught there while also getting in on the business side of the operation as a promoter and seller of the program.”

She worked there for three years before heading to Hawaii in 2012.

“I went there to join YWAM (Youth With A Mission),” Renee explained. “It is a non-denominational discipleship training school.”

Renee says she was going through the three-month training program when she met Noel Johnson.

“He was the outreach leader for my training group,” Renee explains. “One of the rules for YWAM is outreach leaders are not allowed to date their trainees.”

It turns out Noel liked Renee, but because of the rules he was not able to say anything. So she was a little surprised when her time in Hawaii was done and Noel announced he would like to go back to New Jersey with her.

“He told me he wanted to date me,” Renee says. “He was serious and he followed me to New Jersey and the relationship grew.”

The couple would end up back in Hawaii to staff together for YWAM.

“Then we took a team to Los Angeles,” Renee shares. “And we ended up getting engaged.”

She says her parents did most of the wedding planning, following the couple’s instructions.

“We got married in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania at a beautiful horse farm which was mostly used to host events,” Renee explains.

One week later the couple was back in Venice Beach, California, living in a tiny apartment one block from the beach.

“We would pass a blue house every time we went to the beach, and dream of owning it,” Renee says. “At $10 million it was out of our price range, but that is where the name of the store came from.”

They were enjoying life.

“We were paying $1,800 a month for this place that had maybe 500-800 square feet of space,” Renee recalls. “We just felt we were where we were supposed to be. It was great – until we had two kids.”

The couple then moved into a townhome in Van Nuys.

“We were working as missionaries,” Renee says. “I was working as a part-time nanny to help make ends meet.”

Then she discovered Poshmark.

“Poshmark is kind of like Ebay, but for fashion,” Renee explains. “I would buy things at thrift stores and resell them to help pay the rent. It was mostly a hobby at first.”

But then she says she learned the game.

“I became more familiar with brands and found I could buy brand-name new clothes which were higher quality,” Renee explains. “We were living in the heart of the fashion district and there are clothes which just get taken to landfills sometimes. Maybe they are last year’s styles or stores are clearing out inventories to make room for the next season; but I learned high quality, sought after brands were available to purchase at a greatly reduced price.”

She continued to sell clothes online after the couple moved to White Bear Lake, Minnesota, in 2018, and then to Blue Earth in July of 2020.

“Noel, who grew up in the Frost area, was buying houses in Blue Earth to fix them up and resell them so he would be gone a lot,” Renee comments. “I asked him, why don’t we just move to Blue Earth?”

And then came the idea to open the store at 120 S Main St.

“Part of the store is for in-store sales and part of it is for working on my online sales because I still utilize Poshmark,” Renee says. “I am guessing 75 percent of my sales will be online and 25 percent will be in the store, but that could change.”

She explains how she sells online.

“Currently, I know what people using Poshmark are looking for,” Renee says. “I can take a picture of an item and post it online and it is sometimes purchased shortly after I have posted it.”

Getting to know what area shoppers are looking for is one or her goals.

“My store is like a mom and pop version of TJ Maxx,” she says. “I sell overstocks, shelf-pulls and off-price retail. I buy liquidations from bigger stores and am able to offer quality items at a reduced price. I will have new shipments coming in every week so it is important to price pieces so they move.”

Renee says it was easy to adjust to the cold weather of Minnesota.

“I was used to five degrees below in New Jersey. A temp of negative 20 degrees is not so bad,” she remarks. “Once it’s cold, it’s cold.”

Their family has now grown to four children, ages eight months to six years, and Renee says they are happy to be raising their family in Blue Earth.

“What’s not to like?” she says. “We do not have to leave town to get what we need, we know people here and we can walk our kids to school. I love the pace of life here.”

The Blue House On Main will be open Tuesday through Friday from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.