Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The town motto of Faribault, Minnesota is “Small Town Pride, Big City Opportunities.” It’s also a fitting saying to describe the Faribault Woolen Mill Co., which has been producing woolen blankets and accessories for more than 150 years.

Situated along the banks of the town’s Cannon River, Faribault first launched at the end of the Civil War to turn local wool into wool batting. It eventually expanded, producing blankets and clothing for westward pioneers, soldiers in both world wars, airline passengers, and national department stores.

Faribault almost didn’t make it this far. The company shuttered its doors in 2009, but was reopened after being purchased by local businessmen Chuck and Paul Mooty (who are also cousins).

Today, Faribault employs 70 people and offers its classic blankets in a variety of patterns and prints, as well as throws, scarves, electronic accessories, home goods, and hats.

Business is booming, Faribault’s Vice President of Global Sales Mich Berthiaume told ABC News:

In the last 18 months, it truly has been a renaissance. ‘Made in America’ is so powerful to consumers. This is a movement that’s happening all over the United States and abroad. The customer base in the past six months has just risen like I can’t believe.”

The original all-wool Faribault blanket sold for $20 in 1925 and was carried in most major department stores across the United States. Wartime production transformed the mill in 1941, with civilians contributing to more than 200,000 blankets and sleeping bags for troops.

After the war, Faribault became the first company to offer wool blankets with permanent moth-proofing technology, and the company also introduced washable wool products to the masses. In the 1960s, Faribault helped lead the successful effort to eliminate blankets made of rayon, which are highly flammable. During this period, Faribault blankets became a staple for many airline companies, who offered them to passengers to keep cozy on flights. But Faribault hit hard times by the 21st Century. In 2001, the successors of founder Carl Klemer sold the company, ending 136 years of family ownership. In 2009, Fairbault closed its doors.

Enter the Mootys, who saw potential in the old mill and re-launched Faribault in 2011. The Made in America element was part of the business plan:

At a time when most textile production has moved overseas, the Faribault mill is thought to be North America's only fully-integrated facility with equipment that washes, cards, spins and weaves wool into Faribo brand blankets and throws.

Business has thrived since the reopening, with orders from retailers such as Target, Dillards, Crate and Barrel, West Elm, and even actor George Clooney — who ordered the company’s military West Point blanket for the cast and crew of  the movie The Monuments Men

AAM intern Lauren Pak authored this report.