The owner of Red Wing Pottery has found a buyer with big plans for the company's future.
Bruce Johnson and his wife, Irene, bought the iconic stoneware company from third-generation owner Scott Gillmer. They also recently bought the Red Wing Stoneware Co.
Now that they own both businesses, Johnson said they plan to have Red Wing Pottery take up large-scale manufacturing again, something that hasn't happened since the 1960s. He also plans to use part of the 32,000 square foot facility as a classroom for community art classes.
Red Wing Pottery went up for sale just after Johnson bought Red Wing Stoneware. The two companies have a shared history, but since the 1960s have functioned as separate businesses. Johnson said he didn't expect to buy Red Wing Pottery but the more he and his wife thought about it, "the more it made sense."
The new owner plans to take a few months to re-brand the store before reopening early next year. Johnson said he wants to position the company as a producer of premium products, not discount ware.
Gillmer thinks the strategy will help the company flourish again under the new ownership. Part of the reason he had to sell was because competition from bigger retailers and foreign manufacturer had taken a toll on the company's bottom line. "They doing the right thing," he said, "focusing on authentic product that's made here in Red Wing."
The company's 13 full-time and 20 part-time workers will have to reapply for their jobs when the store re-opens in the spring.
Still, longtime Red Wing Pottery employee Nancy Featherstone said she's grateful a buyer stepped up and the store will remain a part of the Mississippi River community.
"I always remained faithful and hopeful that it would happen, and it's the best Christmas present ever," she laughed. "I think, not only for me and us, but for the town. I mean, it's great."