After a tumultuous six months and an amazing transformation, the Frost River Trading Company store is now reopen.
Just one short week after closing the store in the beginning of March, Face Shield materials were delivered and Frost River began its endeavor of manufacturing Personal Protective Equipment for the local healthcare systems and it's been a whirlwind ever since.
Keep reading for a look behind the scenes, or rather closed doors, and learn more about the changes that happened in Frost River not only as a business but also the physical storefront.
A quiet Frost River Retail Store after making the decision to close.
It was a surreal experience hauling rolls of Face Shield plastic into the shop, rather than rolls of waxed canvas.
Layers of plastic are laid across the cutting table to maximize the amount of shields being cut at once.
Face Shields consist of the durable plastic shield, comfortable foam, and a thick piece of elastic.
Our main production floor, quiet and empty as we waited to become an essential business and be able to bring the production team back to work.
In mid-March Frost River made the call to close the retail shop and immediately began searching for a way to help our healthcare workers on the frontlines. Being a seasoned manufacturing company and having invested in special computer-aided cutting table- we had all of the tools to make a difference during the Personal Protective Equipment shortage. Within a week we were receiving the clear plastic, thick foam, and durable elastic for Face Shields.
The Cutting Table was running 24 hours a day, carving out all of the plastic shields- totaling over 200,000 pieces. We did run into a couple small bumps- within the first 48 hours the cutting machine malfunctioned. Luckily our neighbors down the street, Aerostitch Designs, were kind enough to pull the needed piece directly off of their machine so no time would be lost on our end.
Up-cycled medical grade fabric to be used for face masks on the cutting table.
The Frost River Storefront after the empty fixtures where taken out of the shop and moved to storage to make room for more sewing stations.
New sewing machines that specialize in quick and lightweight work where purchased to make face masks.
Our front counter being moved out of the store.
The first drop off of person protective equipment to our local health care facilities.
The first of the new sewing machines to arrive at the shop.
Early in April we were able to bring back our production team as Frost River was deemed an Essential business for the manufacturing of PPE. Luckily our main production floor was set up perfectly for social distancing already, so bringing staff back safely was an easier task for us. The sound of the sewing machines whirring and having some hustle and bustle back in the shop was reinvigorating. The only part that was different was instead of sewing waxed canvas bags, the team was producing upcycled medical material into face masks.
With the new-found energy and still a major need for Personal Protective Equipment we began thinking creatively on how to maximize our production, with the goal of making thousands of face masks each day. The answer was that we needed more space.
By April 10th we moved all of the store fixtures into storage, all of the waxed canvas goods were hauled away and we made what is normally our retail floor into an additional production space. New sewing machines were purchased and we began to hire temporary part-time sewers to join the PPE team.
The retail store transformed into the additional production floor.
The quick-learning sewing team produced thousands of masks daily.
Eco3's volunteer workforce assembling thousands of shields.
The Frost River Team tried out one of the first practice volunteer sessions for face shield assembly.
Our trailer filled with 10,000 assembled Face Shields.
Our Production Team had grown to a staff of 50 with the addition of the temporary sewers. Most of the new sewers were college and high school students looking to fill their time by doing something that would benefit others. At the height of our production we were able produce 5,000 face masks a day!
As Summer emerged, the experienced full-time staff were able to move back to crafting waxed canvas packs and bags while the PPE crew continued on with face masks.
We also teamed up with our neighbors, Ecollibrium3, to help with the assembly of the Face Shields. They used their expertise to bring in a volunteer workforce to assemble the Face Shields within a matter of two months.
Caribou-One the 1976 Vintage Airstream
Front of the Airstream trailer with the Frost River route in the BWCA.
Our Grizzly Bear store mascot, Old Nine-Claw, as a sticker on the Airstream.
The gutted interior of the Airstream.
One of the highlights from the summer was adding to the Frost River Fleet. Just North of our hometown of Duluth, MN we found a vintage 1976 Airstream Trailer for sale in the woods. It needed some buffing and reconfiguration of the interior, but otherwise we knew it would make a perfect Pop-up Shop! After a good amount of elbow grease it became, Caribou-One, our way to keep the Retail Store closed, but still be able to offer our waxed canvas goods safely to the public.
We've got many future plans for Caribou-One. We hope to pop it up at tradeshows, festivals and at our Retail Partner's store locations.
The Airstream also has allowed us to keep the store closed for a longer amount of time, giving us the extra weeks we needed to renovate the shop before re-opening to the public.
Working to find the best height for the new light fixtures.
New durable flooring was installed throughout the main level of the building.
Locally harvested timbers going up to create a focal entry point between Frost River & Love Creamery.
A log cabin fixture being installed at the back of the retail store.
As we met the needs of the local healthcare facilities, we slowed our PPE production. It was time for the secondary production floor to turn back to its intended purpose of being a retail shop once again-- but not exactly in the way the store once was, we wanted a new and improved place to shop for our customers!
What better time to renovate and renew than when you have a blank slate. New durable flooring was added to the entire main level of the space. New fixtures and displays like a log cabin and a pergola made from locally-harvested timbers were built. Every measure was taken to update the space making it easier and more exciting to shop, while maintaining the quirky character that once was.
Adding Henry and our logo to the new windows.
Channeling for the new windows being installed.
The windows on the storefront replaced the wood that had been rotting.
It was amazing to see a hole in a quarter of the building!
The renovation that we are all most excited about is our storefront. What once was short and somewhat claustrophobic window bays has now turned in to floor to ceiling glass. Natural light is pouring into the store making the waxed canvas packs look much more at home.
The aesthetics alone aren't the only benefits from this renovation- the new windows and doors are much more energy efficient.
The Grand Reopening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
The completed Frost River storefront.
Inside the store looking at the new entry way between Frost River and Love Creamery.
The completed log cabin display.
Electric vehicle chargers were installed in the back packing lot of the Frost River Marketplace.
Just as all businesses and individuals are feeling- who would have guessed that 2020 would take us to this point. None of these endeavors had been in the plans or even a thought of what we would accomplish in the year. The entire crew is excited to safely re-open the store after a long closure. All have worked so hard in the transformation of making PPE and surviving in a pandemic. We've got the machines, materials and expertise on standby in case Face Shields and Masks are once again needed- but for now, we are so happy to once again share our shop and reliable softgoods with everyone.
Thank you to our customers for all of the support!
- The Frost River Team