There is nothing ordinary about Faribault Woolen Mill’s 150-year legacy. As one of the oldest textile mills in the country, it has survived the Civil War, Great Depression and World War II. After a brief 18-month manufacturing hiatus in 2009, Faribault is back and bigger than ever.
Cousins seeking out a business investment, Paul and Chuck Mooty, purchased the run-down Minnesotan mill in 2011. But Bruce Bildsten, Partner and Chief Marketing Officer of the woolen mill, tells us that the building was going to be torn down and equipment was ready to be sent to Pakistan just days before the Mootys decided to invest. Rehabilitating the plant’s interior was the least of their worries. The challenge that they faced was bringing a dated, almost foreign, brand back to life. But according to Bildsten, “Paul and Chuck Mooty had the resources, the vision and the courage to make it happen.”
Faribault’s resurrection began with a focus on handcrafted design and moved to leveraging the brand’s rich folklore.
Since the beginning, the woolen mill has been known for their high quality blankets; they stay true to the traditional craft by beginning the manufacturing process with raw wool. And according to Bildsten, the wool-making process consists of twenty-two steps from beginning to end. “It all happens under our own roof,” he says, “from a raw bale of wool to a finished product. There isn’t a single piece of equipment in our mill that you just turn on and walk away from. Every step requires skill ad experience. That’s craftsmanship.” In recent years, the company has introduced wearable scarves and contemporary décor to their collection and the public’s response has been overwhelming; profits have nearly doubled annually since the woolen mill’s relaunch.
With the rise in interest of American heritage goods, Faribault products have become even more desirable. “Our customers care about where their products come from and our story and history resonates with them. If we outsourced there would be no story; there would be no mill,” Bildsten says. A century and a half later, their story still manages to connect with buyers, and companies like Crate and Barrel, Nordstrom, West Elm and Restoration Hardware recognize this.
This fall, the woolen mill plans to broaden its line with 112 new items. The blanket designs are more intricate, the throws are more colorful and modern than ever, and the scarves are larger. Though its legacy is rooted in blanket making, the newer throws, scarves and pillows add a contemporary flair without compromising the company’s classic appeal.
Faribault recently celebrated the big 150 at the iconic mill, located just 50 miles south of the Twin Cities. “We wanted to create a celebration that could be shared with our local community as well as all of our fans in the Twin Cities,” says Bildsten. Nestled on the banks of the Cannon River, the day consisted of inductions into the mill’s newly launched “Hall of Fame,” live music from Abracadabra and The Pines and “The Running of the Sheep.” Local food and beverages, textile weaving demonstrations, and a marketplace featuring limited edition Faribault products also commemorated the anniversary day.
Once known as a brand built on functionality, the Faribault label is now a badge of craftsmanship. As history has been so integral to their successes, we’re eager to see where the next 150 years will take Faribault Woolen Mill.
Check out the Modern Midwest Shop for special Faribault Products.
Faribault Woolen Mill
1500 2nd Ave NW, Faribault, MN 55021