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140-Year-Old Red Wing Pottery Company May Soon Close Its Doors

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RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) – A Minnesota company that’s been making pottery for 140 years is on the verge of closing.

The owner of Red Wing Pottery says he is planning to shut down at the end of the year, unless a buyer comes forward to take over the business. He says it’s just become too expensive to keep operating.

There’s something personal about pottery.

That sentiment could be heard from many longtime customers at Red Wing Pottery’s showroom Tuesday.

“I was like, Oh my God. No way. They can’t close,” said Kathy Kirchner. “Now I’m sad.”

She and her husband drove down from Dayton after hearing that Red Wing Pottery may be closing soon.

“I’m gonna get the kids all something, so they have something for  remember it. So we’re collecting pieces for all our kids,” she said.

The distinctive handcrafted crocks have been staples in many Minnesota homes for decades.

Scott Gillmer is the owner of Red Wing Pottery, and the grandson of R.A. Gillmer who ran the business in the 1960s.

“Red Wing made lots of crocks over its history. They were the Tupperware of the day. They were used for storage of everything, ” he said.

But most people now have fewer dollars to spend on items like pottery, Gillmer says.

“I’ve decided to step away from that, sell the rights to the name and allow somebody to come in, a fresh entrepreneur with fresh eyes, and figure out how to keep this thing moving forward,” he said.

Scott Keith has been a potter at the shop for 17 years.

“It was a good run, a good run. I’m sad,” he said.

It’s an emotion shared by many loyal customers, like Sharon and Jerry Heddle. They drove down from Bloomington.

“That’s why we thought we’d come on down,” Jerry Heddle said. “Pick up something, look for something, before they close.”

Sharon Heddle added: “It’s been here forever. So it won’t be fun to see this place go.”

The owner says he’s optimistic that someone will step in a buy the business.

There are already some strong possibilities.

Note: Red Wing Stoneware is a different company, and is still in operation.

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