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Duluth Trading Co.'s Port Washington, Wis. store.

Duluth Trading Co.,

Duluth Trading Co. returns to its home base

  • Article by: John Ewoldt
  • Star Tribune
  • January 11, 2014 - 10:34 PM

It’s about time.

Duluth Trading Co., the work clothes and accessories retailer that started in Duluth in 1989 but never operated there, will open its first store in its namesake city this spring.

The Belleville, Wis.-based company said Monday it had signed a lease for a 7,000-square-foot location in the 99-year-old Woodrush Building at 300 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth.

“Duluth is the origin of the company,” said Stephanie Pugliese, president of Duluth Trading. “Coming home will be a good thing for the brand.”

The retailer actively looked at Duluth sites for the last six months but had had the city in its plans a long time, she said.

The new store will be the company’s fifth location and similar in size to the two 7,000-square-foot Wisconsin stores in Mount Horeb and Port Washington and an outlet in Belleville. A recently opened store in Bloomington is 14,000 square feet.

Pugliese said the success of the Bloomington store made executives more confident about the latest move. Duluth Trading is also actively looking to add another Twin Cities metro store, she said.

The company was founded by Bob and Dave Fierek when the brothers designed a tool organizer called the Bucket Boss. Their headquarters floated on the Lake Superior waterfront, but there was never a retail location.

The company was sold to Fiskars in 1996 and since 2001 has been owned by Steve Schlect, who is also its CEO.

Since 2005, Duluth Trading has also sold women’s clothes, which now make up about 20 percent of sales.

Customers know Duluth Trading for its spunky ads featuring Buck Naked underwear that feel like “wearing nothing at all” and Longtail Tees that prevent “plumber’s butt.”

Duluth Mayor Don Ness said the company’s return to its roots is another example of the revitalization of the city. “Their brand accents and promotes the Duluth experience. We’re thrilled to have them back,” Ness said.

The retailer often searches for historic buildings in downtowns. The new store in the 1915 building will feature tall windows in a brick facade. Pugliese said the company was attracted to the corner location with its high ceilings. “It’s not a white box, brand new kind of construction,” she said. “It’s [got] character and age that we like.”

One concern was the Last Place on Earth store, a head shop in the area that was closed by a judge last summer.

“There’s no question that the sale of synthetic drugs had frustrated that part of downtown for the last two and a half years,” said Ness. “It doesn’t surprise us that Duluth Trading saw it as a deterrent to coming here.”

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633

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