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Saturday
Nov032018

Faribault Woolen Mill Opens Charming Retail Store on Washington Avenue

Article and photos by Merle Minda

Step inside the newly opened Faribault Woolen Mill store on the corner of Washington Avenue and 11th Avenue South in the Mill District, and you’ll feel it from the first moment: warmth, design, usefulness and beauty. Surrounded by these warm and beautiful woolen blankets in a vast array of colors and designs, you may even recognize some designs from your youth, when a woolen blanket was placed on the foot of your bed on a cold winter night.

Tom Kileen, CEO of Faribault Woolen Mill Co.

Faribault Woolen Mill is an integral part of Minnesota history. Spinning wool and making blankets since 1865 (that’s over 150 years, folks!), they start by using raw wool and combing, processing and weaving it into the fine products they make today. In their early history they made blankets for the military, both Army and Navy, still an essential piece of their business. Over one-third of their business remains with the military. Faribault blankets went off to two World Wars and everything in-between.

The mill in Faribault is perched on the banks of the Cannon River; you can visit the mill and see the entire process from beginning to end. They have a retail store at this site too, just 60 miles south of the Twin Cities, but the new Washington Avenue store is their first free-standing retail venture in the United States.

Faribault Woolen Mill store now on Washington Avenue in the Mill District.

Talking to CEO Tom Kileen, I learn that after all the years of being started and owned by the same family, the mill closed in 2009 and was about to be sold off in pieces when another family, the Mooty family, bought the mill and started it up again. Kileen is a family member, and talking with him is to speak with someone who devoted heart and soul to the mill and its fine array of new designs and products.

Not depending solely on history, the new blanket designs are truly gorgeous. In addition to the military blankets which you can buy here (and they are unbelievably warm and sturdy), the new designs and colors are simply tops of the availability of wool blankets sold today. Plus Faribault Woolen now makes scarves and warm ‘throws’ and larger and smaller sizes for any situation.  Use them for hiking, camping, backpacking – they are dependable and go everywhere.

The Betsy Ross design.

Blanket with street car map of Brooklyn.

Remember these striped ones?One of my favorites is the “flag designs”, with a Betsy Ross blanket as well as a current 50-stars blanket. Another innovation is blanket throws with designs of maps of major cities, such as a Brooklyn blanket. Inspired by vintage street maps, they also feature the Twin Cities, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. What a gift!

And then there are the new colors, the new plaids, the fringes, even the striped blankets you may remember from yesteryear. They make other products with wool too, partnering with Leather Works Minnesota for woolen valet trays, coasters and key chains. When you are out shopping this holiday season, do not miss this store.

Blankets everywhere!

Woolen pillows, too.

“We expect our store to be an easy way for our old and lots of new customers to learn about Faribault Woolens and own one or two for their own family or gifts. We have done an extensive overhaul of the old mill, bringing back many former workers but also designing and making new products,” said Kileen. “We are very enthused about the reception of our latest designs and our new store in Minneapolis,” he continued.

Faribault Woolen Mill Co. is Minnesota’s oldest manufacturer, but they have stepped up in time for today’s market. See the “Story of Wool” on their website at www.faribaultmill.com. You can order online of course, but it is a treat to pop into this friendly store and pick out your favorites. They are located at 1029 Washington Avenue S (next to Northern Coffeeworks). Hours are M-F, noon-7pm; Sat. 9am–6pm; Sunday 11am-5pm. Customer Service: 1-507-412-5510, customerservice@faribaultmill.com.

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About Merle Minda

Journalist and free-lance writer Merle Minda writes about travel, business, people profiles and other subjects for a number of national and regional publications, including Delta SKY, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business, Star Tribune, Twin Cities Statement, Minnesota Monthly, and now Mill City Times. She can be reached at mminda@earthlink.net or TravelOverEasy.com on the web.

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