Big John, Uber-Grocery Clerk
Big Johns are well-meaning hulks, hoisting car-sized bags filled with groceries in the parking lots of their Big John food stores. Often mistaken for classic Muffler Men, the Big Johns peacefully coexist with their roadside brethren.
Big Johns are 28 to 30 feet tall fiberglass statues, usually clad in checkered shirts, blue jeans, an apron and comical bulbous black shoes. His beefy arms can hold four stuffed-near-to-bursting bags of groceries.
Charles Lincoln wrote us that his dad carved the molds while working at General Sign Co. (in business 1939-2010), in or around Cape Girardeau, MO during the summer of 1967. The figures and grocery bags could be customized for different businesses. "In the mid '70s, Giant Food Stores co-opted them for a time, with the larger full torso apron (painted orange)."
When a Big John store goes out of business, someone re-purposes the big guy.
That's what happened to the BJ in Cape Coral, Florida, which lords over a strip mall. He's been there since 1969. Big John's grocery bags are missing, but he's otherwise up to spec. He survived a close encounter with Hurricane Charlie in 2004, and is reportedly anchored to withstand 110 mph winds.
A roving Big John has been reported in Lake View, Mississippi, pressed into seasonal firewooks service like a portable M-Man.
Big Johns are rare; only about eight are known to be in publicly accessible places. Due to their scarcity, Big Johns are sought after by collectors of Muffler Men. Glenn Goode's welcoming line of Big People include two Big Johns (they're not holding grocery bags, but Glenn had those stowed on his property until 2015). In Unger, West Virginia, George Farnham bought an unemployed Big John from a store closed in Benton, Illinois, and added it to his own back yard line-up of giants.
Other Big Johns of note:
- Carmi, Illinois -known as "Little Giant," changed hands and locations around Carmi for years, but eventually settled into his new role in front of a deli called Little Giant.
- Eldorado, Illinois - still stands at a Big John Super Foods Store.
- Gainesville, Texas - A rare display of two Big John's is part of Glenn Goode's Big People. Glenn passed away in 2015, but for now the statues seem to be staying put next to a Muffler Man and a Uniroyal Gal.
- Metropolis, Illinois - Well-kept specimen at the local Big John store, but he's often overlooked because the Man of Steel stands just down the road.
- West City, Illinois - The store (earlier reported as in Benton) closed in 2005, later the figure was sold and moved to Unger, West Virginia to join the Farnham Colossi.