Sold--or shut down? Change coming for Red Wing Pottery by year's end

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Red Wing Pottery, based in the Mississippi River town of the same name, will be sold or closed by the end of the year after more than a century and a half of business.

The Star Tribune reports that third-generation owner Scott Gillmer wants to find someone to purchase the iconic property. But the story says that if he doesn't find a buyer for the 32,000-square-foot retail-restaurant-pottery production facility, he will close it at the end of the year. The shutdown has already begun, starting with the cafe on the West Main Street property. The Smokey Row Cafe served its last meal on Sunday.

Gillmer said that although the business has shifted from mass-production of pottery to becoming a showroom for sales of dinnerware and collectibles, there is simply not enough business to keep the customers coming.

“We grew quite large when retail was good. Now that has ended,” Scott Gillmer said. “I have this very large overhead and it’s just not sustainable.”

Last summer, KAAL-TV in Austin, Minn. had a story about how Red Wing Pottery was appealing to visitors by demonstrating old world style pottery making onsite, including the use of pottery wheels so that customers could have a hands-on experience in throwing pots. Only two staff potters remained on the job, making the traditional salt-glaze products.

The RedWingPottery website includes details of the company's history. It tells the story of how craftsmen tapped a vein of natural clay in the mid-1860's to create pots for storing food in the era before refrigeration. By the 20th century, the handcrafted pottery was phased out in favor of an assembly line with machines producing the products with the signature Red Wing insignia.

Red Wing pottery mass-produced on site until 1967 are collected internationally.

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