Steamboat wool company selling its final products
Routt County Woolens closing after being open for 14 years
March 21, 2011
Steamboat Springs — The closing of a mill in Minnesota created prohibitive costs that are causing Routt County Woolens, after 14 years, to sell its remaining blankets and other products created with local fibers.
"It's been a really good run," owner Nancy Mucklow said about the business, which annually shipped local wool from numerous producers to Faribault, Minn., where it was processed into blankets and other products.
Faribault Woolen Mills closed in 2009 after about 144 years of operation, according to the Faribault Daily News. Mucklow said she was unable to find another American mill that could provide all the manufacturing steps — such as scouring, cleaning, treating and weaving — necessary to create products including Routt County Woolens' signature blankets.
"It's been real hard to get our inventory," she said last week. "We decided to put (the business) on the back burner for a while."
She said shipping the wool to locations overseas, such as China, would run counter to the company's emphasis on locally produced, American-made goods.
Mucklow said a mill in Massachusetts would weave the blankets but could not do the steps needed before weaving, meaning she'd have to send wool to multiple locations.
"Instead of looking at one set of shipments, I'm looking at three shipments," she said. "So it's just a cumbersome thing, and at the end of the day, there's a money aspect to it."
Routt County Woolens is trying to clear out its warehouse in Bogue Hall at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus with a final sale Friday and Saturday.
Mucklow said Routt County Woolens has "a great stock of small things," such as potholders and other kitchen or bathroom accessories, along with "a small amount of prized blankets."
She said the sale would be on a first-come, first-served basis. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Routt County Woolens has an exterior entrance in Bogue Hall, and Mucklow said signs would be posted.
She noted that Bogue Hall is scheduled for eventual demolition to make way for the college's new building, and before that, the warehouse space will be needed for other CMC uses.
"It's a perfect time to sell, and I don't have a lot of inventory because we can't get blankets made," Mucklow said.
Routt County Woolens was formed in 1997, with strong local support and grant funding from the Colorado Department of Agriculture. It helped provide a foundation for Northwest Colorado Products, a program that started in 2007 and markets Northwest Colorado foods and other goods in an effort to support local economies and producers.
Northwest Colorado Products is a program of the Community Agriculture Alliance. Program coordinator Nancy Kramer said Routt County Woolens would be missed.
"It leaves a big dent," Kramer said about the closing. "They've been a force in getting the program going."
Kramer said the closing wouldn't threaten Northwest Colorado Products, which has nearly 50 local producers creating a variety of goods.
"But when we lose a producer, it's a sad day," Kramer said. "But it's also a prideful day, that somebody like Nancy is so dedicated to the quality and the American-made product. … She weighed all her options, and I think she's very comfortable with her decision."
Mucklow said she would miss Routt County Woolens, too.
"It seems like it's kind of the end of an era," she said.
To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com