Red Wing Pottery closing downtown showroom; owners cite harassment

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The owners of Red Wing Pottery surprised the town Tuesday by announcing they're closing the company's showroom after decades on Main Street.

Bruce and Irene Johnson, who saved the venerable shop by purchasing it from its third-generation owner two years ago, say they've endured threats and harassment from within Red Wing's business community, the Pioneer Press reports.

The newspaper quotes a statement in which Bruce Johnson says: "We would never have anticipated the hatred and anger we have faced in this community over trying to revive this great business. We are worn out, stressed out and exhausted from being bullied by a small portion of the business community that seems to have incredible power in this city."

The Pioneer Press notes the Johnsons have filed a trademark infringement lawsuit over the use of the red wing insignia by the Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation, which operates a pottery museum near the company's showroom.

Bruce Johnson tells the Red Wing Republican Eagle the closing of the Red Wing Pottery showroom will not affect Red Wing Stoneware, a separate company – also owned by the Johnsons – that makes many of the traditional items sold in the shop along Highway 61.

The Republican Eagle says Red Wing was stunned by Tuesday's announcement, with Chamber of Commerce president Patty Brown telling the paper, “We hate to hear of a loss of any Red Wing business, but especially one with this rich history and has been so iconic in our community.”

Red Wing Stoneware's roots in the town date back to 1877. The Pioneer Press says the Red Wing Pottery showroom has been on Main Street since the 1950s.

Dec. 24 is scheduled to be the last day for the showroom.

Bruce Johnson tells the Republican Eagle about 15 people will lose their jobs. He says they, too, have been harassed in public and at the store.

Johnson tells the paper he thinks some in the town have harbored anger and resentment toward Red Wing Pottery since a contentious labor strike there in 1967.

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