FARIBAULT, Minn. (WCCO) — One of the state’s largest companies is teaming up with one of its most historic. Starting Nov. 2, Target is selling products online from Minnesota’s oldest manufacturing company.
Faribault Woolen Mill created a new, more affordable collection of scarves, throws, bags and other items, just for this limited partnership. Target asked for it because it says customers are increasingly interested in “U.S.-made products with a story.”
The story of Faribault Woolen Mill is nearly as old as the state itself. It’s a company that specializes in keeping people warm.
Donnie Morrissey has been working at the mill since 1968.
“I wish I had a nickel for every blanket I’ve made in my lifetime,” he said.
Faribault Woolen Mill has been turning out blankets and other warm items since the 1800s, a small town business with a homespun atmosphere.
Morrissey sometimes brings a fishing rod to work. The mill sits along the Cannon River, and he’s able to take a fishing break while his blankets are being processed.
“There’s everything out here,” he said. “We’ve got northern, walleyes, pan fish. It’s nice. Not everybody’s got this luxury.”
The workers at Faribault Woolen Mill will produce more than 200,000 items this year, and they do it the old-fashioned way.
“This is the last mill in America that takes a raw bale of wool,” said Bruce Bildsten, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We dye the yarn, we spin it and turn it into yarn, and we do a finished blanket all under one roof. Nobody else in the country does that.”
Some of Faribault’s first customers were the early pioneers, heading west on horseback. In the decades since, the U.S. military has ordered more than a million foot soldier blankets.
“We provide the blankets for the West Point Academy,” said Bildsten. “We just shipped off 1,300 of those a couple months ago.”
Faribault’s products are sold to the public in stores throughout the U.S., and as far away as Japan and Australia.
“We have a lot of celebrities that love this brand,” Bildsten said, “and a lot of people in high places.”
When George Clooney directed the film, The Monuments Men, he gave everyone involved one of the West Point blankets.
“He gave it to John Goodman and Matt Damon and the entire cast and crew,” said Bildsten. “They all have a Faribault blanket in their homes.”
Millworker Mary Boudreau has 60 years of her life invested in the company. She started working for the company in the 1950s when she was 18, and she still puts in 40 hours a week.
“You know, something happens all the time that you’ve never seen before,” she said. “If I quit working, I’ll just sit around and get old.”
Getting on in years, though, is not a bad thing for Minnesota’s oldest manufacturer. What counts is the amount of heart that’s still in it.
“This has been my life,” said Morrissey. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”
Faribault Woolen Mill closed down in 2009 during the recession, and it was on the verge of being bulldozed. But Chuck Mooty, the former CEO of Dairy Queen, and his cousin, Paul Mooty, brought it back to life after buying the business in 2011.
If you’d like to see more, you can take a tour of the mill on Thursdays.