7 Questions with Faribault Woolen Mill CMO Bruce Bildsten

Faribault Woolen Mill was founded in Faribault, Minnesota, in 1865, and its handcrafted wool blankets, throws, and scarves launched it into a global business. In 2009 the company went bankrupt, but it was revived two years later when two Faribault entrepreneurs bought the company. Today, the company is more in demand than ever—a fact they’re capitalizing on with the first annual Faribault Woolen Mill Tent Sale this weekend.

The brand will offer discounts of 50 percent off or more on overstock, discontinued, and “second quality” items on Friday and Saturday, with scarves priced from $15 to $20, throws from $20 to $80, and blankets from $20 to $80, with items restocked daily. That’s a steal compared to their regular pricing—typically $60 for scarves, $175 to $215 for wool throws, and $135 to $190 for blankets.

I was curious to know more, so I chatted with Faribault Woolen Mill CMO Bruce Bildsten about the sale.

Faribault Woolen Mill’s American Flag Wool Throw will retail for $55 at the tent sale (Photo courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill)

What kinds of items can customers expect to find at the tent sale?

It will be discontinued items, overstock, and seconds.

What do you mean by “seconds”?

This is a craft, what we do here at the mill, so seconds are products that are not consistent—the color is slightly different, the size is slightly different—because we’re making things in a craft-like manner. But for our retailers, we need to be absolutely consistent with what we make. So everything different becomes a second.

These aren’t just imperfect items—I read that many of the items are limited-edition and discontinued. Are there any potential collector’s items in the mix?

Yeah, there are. I think a savvy shopper might find some collectors items because there are definitely some one-of-a-kind items, and there are other things that we’ve done as collaborations with certain retailers that would be for sale.

…For example?

This is our third year of doing collaborations with West Elm. We wait a full year to sell what’s overrun for them. But we have some yardage that would have been from winter of 2013 that we’ll be finishing into unique throws that will be available.

Why host a tent sale in Faribault, and not, say, a warehouse sale somewhere in the Twin Cities?

There was a tent sale right when the mill reopened. When the new owners took over, they found all kinds of merchandise that was left over in inventory. This year we want to make it an annual tradition. We just needed a tent to contain it all, and we felt it as a lot more fun to do it at the mill itself instead of renting a warehouse somewhere.

Do you offer tours at all?

Yes we do, this is a mecca for tours. We do public tours every Thursday (not tomorrow) but every other Thursday we’re doing public tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

[Read more: Faribault Woolen Mills Factory Tour]

Do you have any suggestions for things to do while visiting Faribault and make a day trip out of it?

It’s a beautiful, historic town. It has a beautiful downtown main street and there are attractions like the the Cheese Cave (the downtown café/outlet store for Amablu, America’s only cave-aged bleu cheese), and people could stop at Northfield on the way down—it’s about 15 miles away—there’s apple orchards around, too. It’s going to be a beautiful fall weekend.

9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri., Sept. 26 & 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., Sept. 27. 1500 N.W. 2nd Ave., Faribault, 507-412-5530, faribaultmill.com

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Revival Stripe Wool Blanket in Bone White in queen size will retail for $100 at the tent sale (Photo courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill)

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Faribault showroom (Photo courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill)

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