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Continued: Plans underway for a new textile factory on Wabasha's bluff top

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 30, 2014 - 11:38 PM

She joined a Minnesota nonprofit called the Makers Coalition, a group intent on renewing America’s sewing heritage. Locals in Wabasha, meanwhile, turned up the heat.

“My old piano teacher, my neighbor with a family trucking company and the owner of a local embroidery business all told me: ‘You’ve got to do this here,’ ” she said.

She’s working with the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis to come to Wabasha for textile job training seminars and hopes to find displaced skilled workers from the Red Wing Shoe Co. up Hwy. 61. She’s also opening up design opportunities to fashion students on her website through competitions.

Her makeshift crew produced more than 60 handbags recently for the Shriners organization and, once the factory is up and running, she plans to funnel a portion of her profits to organizations that serve the visually impaired and mentally handicapped.

‘The community’s factory’

Jane Roemer is among the lifelong Wabasha residents excited about the prospects of a new factory. She’s an unemployed accountant who hopes to help McDonald.

“I really like Kelly’s passion,” she said, “and how part of the profits are going to charitable causes.”

Besides her own handbags and apparel, McDonald says the factory will be home to a local company, the Rover Mattress Co., that uses recycled materials to make dog beds. And a California T-shirt and scarf company has also expressed interest.

Behrns, who will be the factory’s landlord, hopes to cash in on a little patriotic fervor.

“Whenever I buy something, nine out of 10 times, I look where it was made and lean toward products manufactured in America,” he said.

Made in Wabasha, well, that would be even sweeter for the game warden’s granddaughter.

“I think he’d be real proud,” McDonald said. “What I’m building will live on long past my lifetime. It will be the community’s factory.”

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

  • related content

  • top: John Behrns and Kelly McDonald stood on the hilltop overlooking Wabasha near the location of a museum he owns that will be used for her new factory, which will employ dozens of people from the area.Bottom:

  • From left, Krista Olson, Sherry Hinkley, Cindy Fenstermacher and Jane Roemer worked on handbags made in a makeshift garment factory in downtown Wabasha. The handbags will soon be made at a new factory being built out of the old Arrowhead Bluffs Museum..

  • Handbags made by Kelly McDonalds business KIS.

  • Some of the collection in the museum is stored in a few rooms where Kelly McDonald's garment factory will be located in Wabasha.

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