Every company has a history. What they do with it matters. Some repeat it. Others learn from it. The really special ones use it to help others.
I’ve paraphrase this quote from a poem by John Mark Green because it truly resonates with the Carlson Fixtures team. The idea of leveraging history as an advantage to help clients is a long-held principle here. How long?
When you consider the history of our parent company, it’s 113 years to be exact. Surprised? There are quite a few facts about Carlson Fixtures that might also surprise you. Here are five.
1. Our turn-of-the-century history includes fur trading and the scrap business.
When you’ve been around before the dawn of modern retail like we have, you bring a lot to the table. That includes diehard dedication, absolute resilience and a belief that anything is possible.
Our parent company, Stein Industries was established by Jewish immigrant, Bill Stein. With an unwavering drive to succeed, Bill traveled by horse and wagon trading furs and hides and buying scrap, before opening a Main Street business in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. The company’s longevity and steadfast spirit has created a strong foundation for the excellence and experience behind the launch of Carlson Store Fixtures in 1959.
2. Our history also includes a dress shop.
Retail is in our DNA. One of the earliest ventures in our historical timeline was Stein’s Apparel, an upscale, women’s ready-to-wear store also in Rice Lake, owned and operated by Bill’s wife, Lena Stein in the 1920s.
From the humble hangers and modest mannequins of yesteryear, to today’s transparent LED solutions and experiential environments, Carlson brings decades-deep knowledge of the retail industry and expertise on what’s ahead. We’ve not only witnessed the constant evolution of the retail experience, we’ve been a valuable retail partner in every movement forward.
3. And plenty of farm animals are also in our history…sort of.
Carlson was formerly located at 137 East Island Avenue on the north tip of Nicollet Island. Our business and building sat among a mostly bohemian enclave surrounded by donkeys, chickens, goats and resident hippies.
Then in 1978, the city of Minneapolis planned to redevelop Nicollet Island, forcing all commercial businesses off the island. As a result, we moved our headquarters to a former manufacturing space at 26 North 5 th Street in downtown Minneapolis. The new building featured a customer showroom on the first floor as we began to develop high-end product solutions for luxury department store brands including Dayton’s, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.
4. Gap, Inc. was another early customer and is still a Carlson customer nearly 25 years later.
Gap, Inc. was skyrocketing in the late 1990s when it tapped Carlson Fixtures to create unique solutions that would complement and support the chain’s industrial aesthetic. One of Carlson’s first assignments for Gap, Inc. was to design and build British-styled telephone booths used for a customer engagement promotion. We became the preferred partner of Gap, Inc. stores and soon began growing our custom fixture business geared toward specialty retail, brands and other outlets.
5. We’re family-owned for three generations and privately held with no plans to sell…ever.
At Carlson, we like to say we are a “forever company.” We’re the company that’s here to stay. To us, staying mindfully private forever is the best kind of success. It’s why we’ve made a conscious decision to never sell.
So, we’re here for the long haul, keeping promises to customers, employees, suppliers and our community in support of their livelihoods. Forging a company that can truly sustain itself, while helping our customers also thrive forever.