Dinkytown Business Association president works hard for community

Skott Johnson has been in Dinkytown since he moved here for school.

The humming and whizzing of office machines can be annoying to some, but it’s music to Skott Johnson’s ears.

The 53-year-old Dinkytown Business Association president and owner of Autographics print shop grew up in Austin, Minn., and moved to Dinkytown to attend the University. He hasn’t left since.

After graduating with a degree in marketing, he started working at Nelson’s office supply store in Dinkytown.

When the now-defunct business was cutting back hours, Johnson talked to the owner of the building where his business now operates and discovered the space was for lease.

Johnson said he and six University students went to Annie’s Parlour to discuss the future of his new business: Autographics.

“We probably discussed 60 or 70 other names before deciding on it,” he said.

Johnson said they settled on Autographics because it had ‘autograph’ in it – something unique to any person – and then ‘graphics,’ which is what the business would be about. It opened 19 years ago and is still cranking out projects.

A challenge for the new business was getting the copy machines and paper. Johnson said he was able to get deals for both by using companies his former employer had worked with.

His favorite part about being in the neighborhood is the sense of community among the other business owners, he said.

Johnson said he knew being part of a community is important to a successful business, so he joined the business association 15 years ago.

He has been the association’s president on and off for eight years. Each term is one year long and he has occasionally faced competition, though he has also run unopposed.

Johnson’s duties have expanded over the years, he said, since he used to go to one meeting a month and now goes to meetings in Marcy-Holmes, Stadium Village and Prospect Park. Johnson said he is also involved in an advisory board with the TCF Bank Stadium.

“I sometimes spend 15 hours a week outside Autographics going to meetings,” he said. “I act as a liaison between Dinkytown and the other University neighborhoods.”

Other business owners in the neighborhood appreciate many things Johnson does.

Dave Watts, known as “Dave the Barber,” has been at Milo’s on Fourth for almost 50 years. He said his neighbor a few doors down is a “great guy.”

“He is able to come up with things so fast,” he said.

An example of this was when Johnson decided to sell flowers out of the shop because there were no florists in the neighborhood. Johnson shut down his floral business because there was too much demand, and cited his lack of real florist experience.

Watts said although he only works two-and-a-half days a week, he talks to and goes to lunch with Johnson a lot.

“He is so funny and I enjoy hearing all his stories about his family and the crazy people he meets on the bus,” Watts said.

Johnson’s hard work for the neighborhood business owners is what Watts said he appreciates about Johnson’s work.

“I don’t know what we would do without him,” Watts said.

Greg Pillsbury, co-owner of Burrito Loco Bar and Grill, said he has known Johnson for almost six years and met him when he and his brother bought a space in the Dinkydale Mall owned by Johnson’s cousin.

“It was the original space for Burrito Loco and was a pretty bad location, but the only place someone would lease to us,” he said.

Pillsbury said Johnson seems to know everyone and “adds a lot” to the neighborhood. Since Autographics handles the printing jobs for the bar, he speaks to Johnson about five times a day.

“Often when I leave work at 7 or 8, I still see Skott in the shop,” he said.