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It began with a drive down Main Street

In July, Duluth Trading Company will open its newest location at 307 Main St. in downtown Red Wing. Kit Murray / Rivertowns Multimedia

Some months ago, an unnamed higher-up from Duluth Trading Company noticed a vacancy in the heart of historic downtown Red Wing. Then, he had an idea. Why not bring one of Minnesota's most recognizable brands to one of the state's most historic cities?

In July, Duluth Trading Company will open its newest location at 307 Main St. in downtown Red Wing. The move will bring 30 new jobs, a retail store, offices and a call center to Red Wing. To fill those, the company is holding job fairs at Red Wing Ignite. The job fairs, along with on-site interviews, will take place 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 18 and 19 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 20.

On May 9, the Red Wing Housing Redevelopment Authority unanimously approved an $84,000 forgivable loan to pay for necessary environmental remediation to the building, which housed a restaurant that closed several years ago. The $84,000 comes from the Red Wing Port Authority, the city and HRA, but the loan will be managed by the HRA. The loan, which will be completely deferred 10 years and then forgiven, will be paid to Doerflinger Second Century Inc., who purchased the building. Doerflinger will lease the building to Duluth Trading.

So, why should the city pay $84,000 to bring Duluth Trading to Red Wing?

"It really makes sense for the city to move forward with the loan," said Mike Kiel, president of Doerflinger Second Century Inc. "Duluth Trading can select any location they want. Their customers find them. Sometimes, they choose to go into the heart of historic downtowns. The issue with historic buildings is that there are sometimes environmental surprises."

The $84,000 will pay for asbestos abatement, among other potential environmental issues like mold removal. According to Kiel, the new tenant is making significant improvements to the building as well.

"They're paying for all new electrical fixtures, new plumbing, ADA-compliant bathrooms and a new HVAC system," Kiel said. "It's an investment of over $500,000."

Kiel has experience with Duluth Trading, as well as historic buildings. He is based in La Crosse, Wis., and helped encourage the revitalization of that city's historic Doerflinger building.

"La Crosse made similar investments to incentivize businesses going to historic buildings," Kiel said. "I really like to see old buildings used to reach their full potential. In Red Wing, this move will create jobs, and you'll see downtown become more active."

With the opening of Duluth Trading Company, two of Minnesota's most recognizable brands will call Main Street home.

"The proximity of the flagship Red Wing Shoe store had a lot to do with Duluth Trading's decision-making process," Kiel said with a grin.