Duluth’s Frost River opens outdoor equipment rental center

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The famous manufacturer of soft backpacks has opened a rental center for backpacks and other equipment. This is a first for the company which has made a name for itself selling hand-sewn and locally manufactured packs since 2003.

“The idea (of a rental center) has been around here longer than I have. We finally just put it all together, ”said Matt Prois, director of retail sales for Frost River.

Frost River Retail Coordinator Matt Prois reviews reservations on his computer at the new Frost River Rental Center in Duluth on Monday, August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Prois was quick to note that the rental items are all top notch, although they may be slightly discolored. The tenants just need to bring back the equipment in good condition.

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“We expect normal wear and tear. These packs can take a long time, ”noted Prois.

In addition to the packs, the rental center also offers plastic barrels, somewhat bear-proof, for canoe trips, as well as bicycle bags and other outdoor bags and packs. Frost River hopes to eventually offer more rental equipment like tents, kitchen sets, paddles and canoes to essentially become a full-service outfitter.

“We are already a permit collection center for people to collect their Boundary Waters permits. So it’s a natural fit, ”said Prois. “That way we get more of our products into the hands of more people and they get to see how well it works. … They can test it.

And maybe, Prois noted, people who can’t afford to buy quality Frost River products can still have a good outdoor experience by renting.

A rental tag is attached to packs at the new Frost River rental center in Duluth on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

A rental tag is attached to packs at the new Frost River rental center in Duluth on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The new rental center is located behind the company’s store at 1910 W. Superior St. Prices range from $ 3 to $ 5 per day for renting handmade packs which can cost up to $ 400. $ each in the store. Everything can be arranged on the rental center’s website, frostrivertrading.com.

“It’s a way for people to have a quality item for their trip who may not be ready or able to pay that retail price,” said Christian Benson, owner of Frost River. “And it’s not just canoe trips. We rent beach bags for people who come to Duluth and realize we have a great beach here! ”

Frost River labels are displayed on rental packs in the new rental center on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Frost River labels are displayed on rental packs in the new rental center on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

A decade locally And in the world

The company’s namesake, the Frost River (and Frost Lake) is part of a remote and somewhat difficult route through the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness.

Frost River, the company has been around in Twin Ports since 2003, when Steve Emerson used the name of a line of bags and canvas bags made in Hermantown, Minnesota by his pack maker American Outdoorsman Co., Duluth Pack, and had made up his mind to compete with his former employer.

In 2008, as the Frost River brand fell silent in the midst of the Great Recession, Benson asked Emerson to purchase a piece of his unused equipment that cut leather. Benson ended up buying the whole Frost River company.

A Frost River patch is displayed on a rental pack in the new rental center on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

A Frost River patch is displayed on a rental pack in the new rental center on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

After a quiet start on nearby Courtland Street, Frost River moved its corporate headquarters in 2011 to the former Minnesota Surplus outdoor gear store. A decade later, Frost River is now a staple of Lincoln Park’s vibrant craft scene, a chance for people to shop for high-end, locally-made outdoor produce between drinking local craft beers and munching on artisan foods. local.

“The reason the building works so well for us is that we can do both the manufacturing and the retail and do them pretty well,” Benson said.

All Frost River brand products are handcrafted in Duluth with materials sourced from suppliers based in the United States. All of the leather comes from the tannery that supplies the Red Wing shoes in Red Wing, Minnesota, “so they’re all Midwestern cows,” Benson joked. The waxed cotton fabric has been made in New Jersey, by the same family, since 1838.

Dan LaTour sews the padding onto the backpack straps at Frost River in Duluth on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Dan LaTour sews the padding onto the backpack straps at Frost River in Duluth on Monday August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

With the bustling retail store downstairs, company employees were cutting materials in the basement. Upstairs, second floor, sewing machine operators are busy in a well-lit, solar-powered store assembling bags, gun cases, tote bags, handbags. and a myriad of other items from the Frost River range.

Frost River now has 34 employees in Duluth, in manufacturing and retail, and sells products made by Duluth to retailers not only in the United States, but in more than 20 countries around the world. Benson said the business was well split between online sales of frostriver.com and sales in physical stores around the world, such as Pirgais Outfitters in Ely, Stone Harbor in Grand Marais and Absolut Canoe in Buchholz in der Nordheide, in Germany.

“We’re strong in Asia – China, Japan and Hong Kong – and England and Germany,” Benson said. “And Canada is a very good market for us.

Frost River staff are working on production on the Lincoln Park store floor on Monday, August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Frost River staff are working on production on the Lincoln Park store floor on Monday, August 16, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

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