In early January, actor Winona Ryder was spotted in her namesake hometown of Winona, Minnesota. The Stranger Things star is not known to visit; she was there to shoot a Super Bowl ad (airing Feb. 2).
Yesterday, a behind-the-scenes preview of that ad went up on YouTube. It’s for New York-based software and website-building company Squarespace, and, in the teaser, residents of Winona—the 26,928-person town an hour west of Rochester, known for scenic bluffs, two colleges, and the Mid West Music Fest—show polite interest.
“I was with a group of ladies that were quilting,” says one woman, crocheting, “and they were telling me that it was being a commercial shot.”
“One of the customers had told a waitress that she had seen Winona Ryder walk by,” says a man in a restaurant.
“When I heard it, I was very confused,” says someone else. “I didn’t know why she would pick here.”
The first woman thinks about it. “I heard she was born around this area. I’m not really sure.”
And then there’s Ryder, icon of the late-’80s and ’90s (Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, The Age of Innocence, Little Women, Girl, Interrupted). She sits in front of the bowling alleys at Minneapolis’ Uptown hangout Bryant-Lake Bowl, even though the rest of the preview shows off bluff-availing angles of the southwest town. Her look—raven-black aviator hat, black-and-white shawl—is both native Minnesotan and Tim Burton starlet.
“Getting to come to Winona, the town I was born in, you walk down the street, and it’s almost like being in another time—but also modern,” she says.
Ryder shares how she got her name: Her mom went into labor at a laundromat, after picking up a pamphlet that read, “The Legend of Winona.”
But the preview doesn’t exactly make clear how this “Winona Goes Home” campaign connects to Squarespace, a platform for websites, domains, online stores, and marketing tools. It seems likely to involve expanding local small businesses’ reach.
“We sent Winona back to her hometown and namesake of Winona, Minnesota, to learn more about the city of Winona and shed a spotlight on Small Town, USA,” Brock Martin, an assistant account executive for communications firm Edelman, said in an email, promising more information next week.
In the first 18 seconds, residents talk about the Winona they know best: the bluffs, the Mississippi, the born-and-raised vibes. “I think Winona represents a lot of towns that have a lot going on and a lot of creative energy and great places,” Ryder notes. “I’m excited to see Squarespace be interested in those small businesses. I just think it’s a really cool project.”
Whatever the project entails, Winona’s prominent Sugar Loaf obviously deserves the closing shot. The town’s rock-pinnacle landmark serves as a reminder of 19th-century quarrying. And the closing words go to the crocheting woman, who speaks over banjo music that’s been playing from the start: “This is the first time I’ve known of anything going on this big,” she says, looking back down at her work.