Red Wing Pottery, iconic brand, faces closureRED WING, Minn. (AP) — Red Wing Pottery, an institution in the Mississippi River town since the 1860s, is facing sale or closure as it struggles to compete with bigger retailers.
RED WING, Minn. (AP) — Red Wing Pottery, an institution in the Mississippi River town since the 1860s, is facing sale or closure as it struggles to compete with bigger retailers.
The business, which got its start by selling farmers salt-glaze storage crocks, will fold by the end of the year if no buyer emerges, owner Scott Gillmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He said he has interest from a couple of possible buyers, but any new owner will have to figure out a new model.
Red Wing Pottery now operates a 32,000-square-foot space to make and sell pottery, with a restaurant on site. Gillmer said it's difficult to operate a large retail gift store in an outstate area.
"People have less discretionary income and I'm in the same boat," Gillmer said. "I'm spending more and more on health care and my children's education as a percentage of my income than ever before."
Gillmer is the third generation of his family to own the business, which has evolved several times in the last 150 years.
The company hasn't mass-produced pottery since 1967, when Gillmer's grandfather bought it and shifted its focus to showroom sales.
The company traces its history to the mid-1860s, when craftsmen used the area's natural clay to make food storage pots. As the country urbanized, the company shifted from jugs, crocks and butter churns to home items such as plates, vases and statuary. Steven Brown, historian for the Red Wing Collectors Society Inc., said the pre-1967 pieces are still sought by collectors internationally.
Gillmer said the business has 13 full-time employees, with up 50 people working during peak seasonal times.