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Faribault Mill prepares to go national with first store outside Minnesota

Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Fashion Daily News

The blanket company has new equipment and products and wants to become a household name outside its home state and region.

MINNEAPOLIS — To Ross Widmoyer, Faribault Mill is part of Minnesota's rich fabric of legacy brands. After rapid growth, the forward-thinking chief executive hopes to weave a new chapter in the blanket maker's story.

This year, for the first time, Faribault Mill will expand its stores outside of Minnesota as it pushes to make itself a household name. Armed with new equipment and a larger array of products, including items made of cotton, the nearly 158-year-old company is ready for a wider platform, said Widmoyer, who became Faribault Mill's chief executive a year ago.

"This is an unbelievable heritage brand," he said. "It has a great legacy here not only in Minnesota but ... a following across the country. Our job is to expand that following and introduce the brand to new consumers, not only here still in Minnesota, but across the country and eventually throughout the world."

Faribault Mill has endured wars, the Great Depression, and historic floods. Little more than a decade ago, the company shut down during the recession leaving its mill empty and in disrepair.

After being reopened by local businessmen and cousins Paul and Chuck Mooty in 2011, Faribault Mill has slowly rebuilt itself centered on its legacy as one of only two remaining vertical wool mills in the country meaning it oversees the manufacturing process from raw wool to finished product. The other such mill is Pendleton in Portland, Oregon.

 

"There's a real heritage to it," said Bruce Bildsten, a Twin Cities marketing executive, who is an equity partner and board member of Faribault Mill. "For me, it was that quality. It was something that lasts."

In February of 2020, Faribault Mill merged with upscale men's clothing startup CircleRock, which Widmoyer started with Paul Grangaard, the former chief executive of Wisconsin-based men's shoe company Allen Edmonds.

Similar to Allen Edmonds, they thought Faribault should invest heavily in e-commerce, open brick-and-mortar stores, and create new products.

"What we really wanted to do was take this long-run primarily contract manufacturer and make it a full-fledged consumer brand," said Widmoyer who was chief operating officer until he replaced Grangaard last year. Grangaard serves as chairman.

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