Company Towns

By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Garrett Hedlund's My North

Roseau.jpgGarrett Hedlund hasn’t always been a Hollywood golden boy. In fact, until he was 14, Hedlund lived on a cattle farm a half hour outside of Roseau in far northeastern Minnesota. As a kid, when he wasn’t doing chores on the farm or playing shinny hockey with his then-schoolmate (and now member of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets) Dustin Byfuglien, Hedlund was probably pining for the day he’d finally get to work for Roseau’s most famous company: Polaris. But the snowmobile and ATV manufacturer wasn’t just the town’s primary employer, it was its major source of pride, and Hedlund loved taking field trips to it. Here are some cities with a company that’s well worth a visit.

Polaris, Roseau

These days Hedlund’s true north is way more than just a place that produces snowmobiles and ATVs, it’s practically a living history museum. The founding HQ of the recreational vehicle juggernaut now boasts a 5,600 sq. ft. Experience Center adjacent to the Polaris Roseau Plant. There, visitors can take self-guided tours spanning the company’s entire 60-plus year history—a history that includes, among other milestones, the second snowmobile ever produced. Once you’ve got the Experience Center under your belt, you can go next door for a tour of the plant itself.

Hormel, Austin

In Austin, Hormel Foods gives unto the world a cornucopia of tasty treats, including but not limited to: Hormel hot dogs, Jennie-O turkey, Skippy peanut butter, and, of course, its most enduring food stuff, SPAM. The pork-in-a-can that first came out in 1937 has captured the imaginations of generations, all wondering what this gloriously salty meatstuff was, and why it tasted so dang good. In fact, SPAM’s reputation has become so storied that Hormel saw fit to build a museum in its honor where you can learn about the history, and food science, of SPAM. The SPAM museum has everything from a SPAM wall that’s nearly 4,000 cans stacked floor-to-ceiling, to a mock SPAM assembly line where you can try your hand at filling cans with SPAM. Oh, and it’s also got a gift shop with every flavor of SPAM imaginable.

Schell’s Brewery, New Ulm

Schells brewery tourIt only took German immigrant August Schell four years from the time he settled in New Ulm (the southern Minnesota town he co-founded) until he began brewing his new town lager beers. One hundred and fifty years—and five (soon to be six) generations of the Schell’s family (now Marti) running the brewery—later, and Schell’s persists in all its original glory, and is a must-stop for travelers. Miraculously, Schell’s still operates out of much of the original infrastructure, including the castle-like brewery itself, behind which sits August Schell’s ornate mansion. You can tour the brewery, kick around the beautiful grounds, or just go down the brewery rathskeller to sample Schell’s beers. And while you’re down there, head across town to the brand-new Starkeller Brewery, where Schell’s brews a variety of less-traditional and one-off beers.

Red Wing Boots, Red Wing

The world’s largest boot is 20 ft. tall, size 638 ½, and it’s just one of the things waiting for you at the Red Wing Boots museum. The boot is an 877 work boot, one of Red Wing’s most iconic and enduring designs, and was constructed in 2005 to celebrate the legendary bootmaker’s 100 years in business. Today, it’s the centerpiece of the museum, which also includes original Norman Rockwell Red Wing ads, a virtual tour through the factory floor (which, in reality, is just down the street), and samples of Red Wing boots through the years. Also on premise with the museum is Red Wing’s flagship store, and, below that, Red Wing’s factory outlet store.

My North is a weekly video series created in partnership with Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Explore Minnesota. If you missed Garrett Hedlund's story, view it here.

>See more My North itineraries