Minnesota

Faribault Mill is preparing to go national with its first store outside of Minnesota

For Ross Widmoyer, Faribault Mill is part of Minnesota’s rich heritage of heritage brands. After rapid growth, the future-oriented managing director hopes to be able to write a new chapter in the history of the ceiling manufacturer.

This year, Faribault Mill will expand its operations outside of Minnesota for the first time, making a name for itself. Armed with new equipment and a wider range of products, including cotton items, the nearly 158-year-old company is poised for a broader platform, said Widmoyer, who became Faribault Mill’s chief executive a year ago.

“This is an incredible heritage brand,” he said. “Not only does it have a great legacy here in Minnesota, but … a following across the country.” Our job is to expand that following and introduce the brand to new consumers, not just here and now in Minnesota, but across the country and eventually across the world.”

Faribault Mill has survived wars, the Great Depression and historic floods. A little over a decade ago, the company closed during the recession, leaving its mill empty and derelict.

After being reopened by local businessmen and cousins ​​Paul and Chuck Mooty in 2011, Faribault Mill has slowly rebuilt itself, focusing on its legacy as one of only two remaining vertical wool mills in the country, meaning it took the manufacturing process from the Raw wool is monitored through to the finished product. The other mill of this type is Pendleton in Portland, Ore.

“There’s a real legacy to that,” said Bruce Bildsten, a Twin Cities director of marketing who is an equity partner and board member of Faribault Mill. “For me, it was that quality. It was something that lasts.”

In February 2020, Faribault Mill merged with upscale menswear startup CircleRock, which Widmoyer founded with Paul Grangaard, former CEO of Wisconsin-based men’s shoe company Allen Edmonds.

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

“What we really wanted to do was take this long-term, mostly contract manufacturer, into a full-fledged consumer brand,” said Widmoyer, who was chief operating officer until replacing Grangaard last year. Grangaard serves as chairman.

The pandemic prompted more consumers to spend money on household goods like beds and blankets. “We’ve just had a real revival and renaissance,” Widmoyer said.

In recent years, Faribault has introduced more than 100 new products and released special licensed products such as a Peanuts collection and artist collaborations.

Faribault Mill has also opened new stores in Edina and Excelsior since the pandemic began.

Last March, Faribault Mill made a major investment, adding cotton products with the acquisition of Brahms Mount, an old company that made cotton blankets. As part of the acquisition, Faribault, which operated under the full name Faribault Woolen Mill Co., was renamed “Faribault Mill”.

Another change over the past year saw Faribault update some of its machinery, including a new industrial dryer and a fleet of higher-speed, higher-capacity looms that allow the company to weave fabrics 50% faster.

Faribault Mill’s investments have already paid off.

December was Faribault’s best sales month in modern history, capping a record year for the company. Last year was the third consecutive year of double-digit sales growth. Faribault Mill’s workforce has doubled to 110 since 2020.

Looking ahead, Faribault Mill intends to open its first permanent store outside of Minnesota this fall in Portland, Maine, about an hour from Brahms Mount’s facilities. The company plans to open two to three stores a year across the country.

Still, Faribault Mill’s path ahead will not be easy as consumers cope with inflation. Sales of household goods have stalled.

“The challenge here is how to be remembered for consumers as they step away from a budgeting perspective,” said Carlos Castelán, managing director of local retail consultancy Navio Group.

Fortunately for Faribault Mill, many of its customers have higher incomes and are less sensitive to inflation, he said.

Widmoyer acknowledges “some softness in the home category” but remains upbeat.

“From a macro standpoint, there may be other headwinds on the horizon, but we believe the opportunity is in continuing to launch this brand because when people find us and experience this brand, they love this brand.”

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