Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring Red Wing, Part II: Red Wing Shoes August 27, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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MY HUSBAND IS A HARDWORKING automotive machinist, on his feet all day resurfacing heads, turning brake rotors, rebuilding engines and more. His work is always in demand because so few do what he does and he’s good at what he does. Really good.

 

Step inside the Red Wing Shoe Store

Step inside the Red Wing Shoe Store in downtown Red Wing and this gigantic 20-foot long by 16-foot high, 2,300 pound replica Red Wing work boot grabs your attention. It’s in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records.

 

He needs sturdy work boots that offer comfort and support and protection from grease, oil and dirt. Sometimes he’s worn Red Wing boots, sometimes boots from Mason Shoes across the border in Wisconsin.

 

Night-time outside the Red Wing Shoe Store.

Darkness descends outside the Red Wing Shoe Store.

 

On a 2014 visit to Red Wing, the Red Wing Shoe Store and its on-site second floor museum were on our must-stop list. Randy was having problems with a pair of Red Wing boots not fitting properly. He’d tried to get the issue resolved at our local Red Wing shoe provider. But still, the problem persisted. Go straight to the source, he decided.

 

Randy stepped onto a machine which determined pressure points on this feet and projected the results onto a screen.

Randy stepped onto a machine which determined pressure points on his feet and projected the results onto a screen.

 

The search began for the right boots.

The search began for the right boots.

 

Randy received great one-on-one attentive customer service.

Randy received great one-on-one attentive customer service.

 

That was the right decision. While Randy’s feet were measured and checked for pressure points and he tried on numerous boots, I meandered. Through the outlet store, through the museum. Eventually Randy found boots and the old ones were determined defective, just as he thought all along. We spent a lot of time at the store, but left satisfied customers.

 

The iconic Red Wing shoe logo.

The iconic Red Wing Shoes logo.

 

Since 1905, when Red Wing Shoes was founded in this Mississippi River town in eastern Minnesota, this shoe company has been crafting shoes for hardworking people like my husband. Footwear in the company’s Heritage Collection is made just as it was originally, handcrafted from premium leather.

 

A museum map

A museum map shows Red Wing’s global market.

 

But, I discovered, not all Red Wing shoes are made in Minnesota. Those new boots Randy got, well, they are made in China, says so on the label inside the tongue. To be honest, we both felt a bit betrayed, thinking he’d gotten American-made boots. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.

 

Rows of boots line a wall leading to the second floor museum.

Rows of boots line a wall leading to the second floor museum.

 

Even given that discovery, my husband remains loyal to the Red Wing brand. He likes his new boots, which I convinced him not to wear to work. He looks really good in his 435 Men’s 6-inch boots. They’re much sexier than sloppy tennis shoes. That left him without work boots. So he ordered a pair from across the border.

 

Even Hollywood chooses Red Wing shoes, according to this info in the museum.

Even Hollywood chooses Red Wing shoes, according to this info in the museum.

 

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. So much for customer loyalty. His new boots from Wisconsin aren’t fitting all that well. Maybe he should have gone Red Wing again, stuck to the iconic workhorse boots which sometimes, and sometimes not, are made in a Minnesota river town.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

Red Wing boot sculptures can be seen in downtown Red Wing.

Red Wing boot sculptures can be seen in downtown Red Wing.

 

A letter is posted in the museum from a long ago customer.

A letter is posted in the museum from a long ago customer attesting to the quality of the shoes.

 

I slipped into a Red Wing boot in the dress-up section of the museum.

I slipped into a Red Wing boot in the kids’ dress-up section of the museum. Kids are encouraged to try on an outfit and Red Wing shoes.

 

envelopne

In 1912, The Red Wing Shoe Company began using the “Chief” logo to promote a new line of “Chief” products. Inspiration for the “Chief” graphic came from an employee’s childhood photo collection. The logo was used until 1928, when it was replaced with the red wing logo design.

 

In the gift shop, I spotted this beautiful Red Wing Pottery bowl.

In the gift shop, I spotted this beautiful Red Wing Pottery bowl.

 

A lovely old door in the shoe store.

A lovely old door in the shoe store.

 

FYI: Click here to read the first in my series of stories from Red Wing.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Boots and blooms April 27, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:29 PM
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IF YOU ARE AN ELEMENTARY school student of the 1960s, like me, you can relate to this post. If you are not, pretend that you are and imagine sitting at your desk, mimeographed math worksheet and box of eight thick Crayola crayons at your fingertips.

Your teacher, we’ll call her Mrs. Olson, instructs you to circle the one item among the pictures that does not belong.

You pull a nubby green crayon from the box of colors because green is your favorite. You’re pretty sure you can use green because Mrs. Olson has not instructed you otherwise. You wish to be obedient.

You study the pictures and crook your elbow around your paper. David is seated across the aisle and you have caught him several times peeking at your math worksheets. Mrs. Olson does not like cheaters. Neither do you.

You study the five images.

Blooms

Blooms, purple

Boots

Blooms, pink

Blooms, blue

Without hesitation, you circle the second picture of the single purple bloom.

The next day Mrs. Olson returns your paper with an “S+” and a smiley face scrawled beside your name.

DEAR READERS, would you have circled the single bloom? I expect most of you would have drawn a circle around the boots. But, remember, this is a math worksheet. We are learning numbers. All of the pictures, with the exception of the purple bloom, show multiples.

I assure you, this marks a rare occasion when I will teach you a math lesson, for I struggled mightily with numbers and still do.

THESE EDITED PHOTOS were taken at Donahue’s Greenhouse in Faribault. I am still wondering how those boots fit in among all those flowers at Donahue’s.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling