After more then three decades in business, Dan Garst's Party Productions, 1919 First Ave. S. has become well-known to area shoppers as a source of party supplies, special-event rentals, scrapbooking supplies, theatrical costumes and props and more. It may come as a surprise, therefore, that his newest retail venture at the Crossroads Mall in Fort Dodge is definitely not just an additional location for his popular primary store.
"We're calling it The Other Store," Garst said. "It's not Party Productions 2."
Located near Penney's, The Other Store has a few items that are also part of the inventory at Party Productions. The goal, however, is to offer an array of merchandise that not only sets the new store apart from the longtime Garst enterprise, but also provides a selection that is truly unique.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Other Store assistant manager Tiffinie Gurnett poses with two of the many lifesize standup cutouts available at the store in the Crossroads Mall. At left, is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a character played by Jim Parsons on the TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” and at right, professional wrestler Paul Wight, who performs as The Big Show.
"It's a work in progress," Garst said, reflecting on The Other Store, which opened in mid-July 2011 and is still evolving as he evaluates the response to various categories of merchandise. "We're not the normal store by any stretch. ... In the whole state of Iowa you're not going to find most of the things that are here."
The store has no single theme. Basically, it is an amalgamation of an eclectic assortment of themes.
"We're not just this. We're not just that," Garst said. "We're a combination of things. ... That's why it takes time to see the store. You just can't just walk in, take one gander and think you've seen what's in the store if you don't literally walk slowly and look high and look low, because it changes in a hurry. You go from one category to another category within 6 feet."
One of the unusual merchandise categories featured at The Other Store is supplies for magicians - and those who aspire to learn the craft.
Additionally, there are monthly classes for folks of all ages who want to learn magic. Larry Dunbar, a local professional magician, teaches these sessions. There is even a classroom area devoted to this activity.
"Mr. Magic is what we call (Larry Dunbar)," Garst said. "He teaches kids, anyone who wants to learn about magic to get started and learn how it works. He's actually got a couple proteges now that have gone on and are doing quite well. He has one of these young kids that he's trained who now opens his act sometimes for him - a fourth-grader. He has a lot of fun. He really works well with the kids."
Though the classes are open to people of all ages, Garst said the participants thus far have mostly been youngsters.
"It's amazing how much interest there is," he said, reflecting on the demand for magic supplies. "There are only a few places in the state of Iowa that carry much of anything. ... We'll order in things special for people."
A second area emphasized at The Other Store is an array of products of interest to people who follow both professional and amateur sports. Some of the items are aimed at celebratory events by fans such as game parties. Others are team allegiance products that allow devotees of particular teams to display their sentiments at games and in homes or offices.
"We have a lot of team sports (merchandise)," Garst said. "We have all the pro teams. All the NFL teams. ... This is in party goods - napkins, plates, some decor like the flags. ... We've gotten into the huge giant ones ... and the banners that you can put on the wall of your office or wherever. We can get things for all the pro teams, a lot of the colleges and things that are just so unique ... little trinkety stuff. ... In Iowa since you don't have a pro team, we support everybody."
School spirit items that allow fans of area schools to show their support are also available in great variety at The Other Store. The selection is huge, but one particularly popular product is athletic socks emblazoned with the school name.
"We had custom things made to help support the schools by showing their names or logos," Garst said. "I would say we are probably going to be expanding our school spirit area."
The store already has in stock school spirit products aimed at the students and fans of the two main Fort Dodge school systems as well as those in some neighboring communities.
A walk through the store reveals offerings in a multitude of categories.
There are novelty T-shirts, masks, wigs and wearable accessories including unusual shoes, fun hats and boas. Customers will also find noise makers, disc jockey-style lights, cutouts for novelty pictures, party favors, some greeting cards and sports-themed refrigerated mugs and pilsners.
Life-size stand-up representations of celebrities and popular culture icons have proved especially popular. Garst said more than 40 options are available, some of which have speaker boxes allowing audio to be triggered by nearby motion.
The Other Store also features a selection of Iowa wines, which currently includes the products of wineries in Gowrie and Humboldt.
"We carry all their wines from both of them," Garst said. "We do samplings occasionally. ... We hope to add a few more of the local wineries in Iowa as the summer goes on."
To truly appreciate just how extensive the inventory is at The Other Store, there's really no substitute for a visit and Garst urges people to stop by for a look. He said it's not unusual for those who do to find something they can't resist that they may not even know they wanted.
There is direct access to The Other Store from the Crossroads Mall parking lot as well as from interior of the mall. Manager Nathan Lane leads a staff of five. He stressed that if a customer doesn't see the item they seek, it is often possible to secure it through a special order.
"We can find a lot of things," he said.
Both Garst and Lane stressed that the inventory is far from static.
"There's always new stuff coming in," Garst said.
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org