New business arrives at the old factory | New

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While parts of the exterior look pretty dismal at the moment, with weathered lettering and overgrown landscaping, the long-vacant Northland Furniture Factory in Grantsburg will soon be once again a manufacturing hub, if a conditional use permit (UPC) is approved by city council in the coming weeks.

Fresh Industries, a Twin Cities-based furniture manufacturing company dating back to 2009, with customers on four continents, is the company behind the future. They have a number of local ties and connections and plan to return the once bustling brownstone facility to a center of local production.

“We know a lot of people are talking and have seen something going on there recently,” said Blake Hewitt of Fresh Industries. “We are excited and believe there is a great opportunity, so let’s keep our fingers crossed! “

Rumors of activity in the long-vacant North facility have escalated in recent weeks, which has its roots in the late 1950s as a Grants furniture factory and later became a blinds factory and of shutters before closing in the 1990s. It is mainly used now for the storage of boats out of season.

“It’s still a big building,” Hewitt said, noting that the company has been renting out part of the building for storage for some time now, and plans to expand into other parts of the structure by around 50. 000 square feet, which sits on 6 acres and has been added several times, but its structure is sound.

They plan to use around 4,000 square feet soon, with an additional 8,000 square feet for storage, some of which is already in place. In fact, the Fresh Group kept a close eye on things like HVAC systems and the roof this spring, making sure nothing was leaking or beyond repair.

“Everything passed the test! Hewitt joked and sighed.

Fresh Industries CEO Aaron Sakaria is also excited about Grantsburg’s prospect and hopes local connections, workers, carpenters, suppliers, shipments and the ability to get closer to Duluth for possible shipment to the foreigners have lent themselves to the old building of the North.

“We’re trying to see if it’s going to be viable,” Sakaria said. “Furniture making has not been around here for some time. “

While there is a rich history of furniture production here, Sakaria and Hewitt had another reason to focus on Grantsburg. You see, Sakaria and Hewitt both have a common local connection to Jensen Anderson, who isn’t just a well-known local personality, he’s their business partner and brother-in-law.

Anderson has a famous history with the local banking industry which first invested in settling the North decades ago, when entrepreneurial banker Walt Jensen – Jensen Andersons’ grandfather and namesake – kicked off the process. by investing in the local furniture industry.

“Even back at Bank of Cushing, he (Walt Jensen) was very invested in local investments and was not afraid to take a risk,” Anderson said proudly, noting that he hoped to take the project even further. by leveraging its local knowledge and connections to divide the tasks and hopefully the earnings.

The future looks bright for the folks at Fresh, and while there are still many hurdles to overcome, the plan is to slowly expand throughout the building and move even further into the future. rabbit hole, they hope to expand enough that they can even be at the forefront of technical training, for specialized skills like industrial sewing and carpentry.

“Sewing is an art,” Hewitt said with a shrug. “But it’s a skill that can last a lifetime.”

The tailoring end of their furniture business is critical and quite frankly an important part of the plan, and something that they hope will become some kind of technical school offering or program through high schools or Northland Tech, to deliver. even more expansion and possibilities for the Company. Hewitt and Sakaria see the future as extremely bright, and while there are already dedicated and talented carpenters in this zip code, commercial tailoring talent is scarce.

“We want to reach out to the high school, get the word out and maybe get people going downstairs,” Hewitt said with a smile.

The Fresh Industries team keeps parts of their business plan, future local product line, possible manufacturing plans, and possible hiring hopes close at hand. While everything depends on the CUP village’s approval, they are excited to continue moving forward and bringing back an industry that once called Grantsburg their home.

“I would say it’s a high profile plan,” Hewitt said. “We will have a lot more information to share, as well as strategies and more on job creation… once the (CUP) is approved. “

In reality, the expansion and reopening of a long-lost industry is another indicator of a strong local business future and an expanding local industrial push that generates benefits and spurs other ancillary industries, such as affordable housing, retailing, tooling, supplies, construction, shipping and eventually, specialized technical education to launch an even bigger push for skilled labor.

“Everyone we spoke with is really excited about this. We’re really looking forward to getting things done here, ”Hewitt said with a smile, to which his two brothers-in-law also nodded. “And we want to have fun doing it!” “

The application for Fresh Industries CUP has been lodged with the village and is expected to be reviewed in a few weeks by the village council after the Commission’s review of the plan.

Once approved, Sakaria said they plan to hold an open house to showcase the furniture they create and to show the future plans, history and hopes for the facility and the industry.

“We’re all very excited about it,” Anderson said, suggesting that Grandpa Walt would be proud.


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