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He did it for the love of his city, but it didn't hurt his business brand when Weldon Johnson walked the Swedish Days parade in his Viking costume.
After all, his Viking Office Supply store has been in business since 1977 and an icon at 124 W. State St. in Geneva since 1982. But this rugged economy has finally forced the 70-year-old Johnson's hand, as he'll be closing his doors in about a month.
"I've seen it coming for some time," said Johnson, one of the city's most well-known and likable businessmen. "I was trying to ignore it, hoping things would get better - but they just got worse."
Johnson, who opened his office supplies business after years in pharmaceutical sales and also as chief deputy clerk of the Circuit Court under Jan Carlson, wants his customers to know that Viking Office Supply will be open through February and can still take orders for goods not in stock.
"We'll be operating as normal, but we'll close for a few days in late February, then get the store ready for a going-out-of-business sale," Johnson said. "At that point, we'll be selling everything, from the trucks to the dollies."
Johnson said he couldn't elaborate on what would happen to the building, which is still owned through a trust by Bill Rosenfelder.
The commercial business has been merged with Source One in South Elgin, which will take over Viking's accounts and deliveries.
"We consolidated because of expense," Johnson said. "At this time, it was just a natural sequence for us."
His daughter, Anne Shaw, has been the store manager and she'll continue the wedding invitation portion of the business. She can provide information at (630) 232-8741.
While he admits that it may be time to retire, Johnson's heart will be firmly implanted in the memory of Viking Office Supply.
"I always looked forward to going to work and I loved seeing people and helping people," Johnson said. "It's been a blast, being part of Swedish Days and the Christmas Walk; it's just all been good memories."