Michigan's oldest wool mill in Frankenmuth turns 125 years old

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FRANKENMUTH (WJRT) (10/10/19) - From horse blankets to socks, mittens and comforters, the Frankenmuth Woolen Mill has stood the test of time when it comes high-quality wool.

Businessmen Franz Ranke and George Grueber partnered to open Frankenmuth Woolen Mill 125 years ago, making everything from horse blankets to mittens and socks.

The company got a big boost during World War I and hasn't looked back.

"During World War I, the mill was contracted to knit 66,000 pairs of socks for the doughboys in Europe. So, that carried them through that time and the Depression," said co-owner Abby Curtis, whose family has owned the mill since the 1970s.

Fast forward to 2019 and visitors will see comforters and other bedding products are very popular items.

It all starts with raw wool brought in from California in 300 to 500-pound bales.

The wool is first washed in hot water to remove dirt and oil, then dried in a separate building. From there, the pieces are sorted and groomed with equipment first used more than a century ago.

However, two other more modern machines do most of the work.

A roller gathers the wool, which is then spread out on a table to be stuffed inside pillows, comforters and other bedding. All of it gets made without any chemical treatment.

"Wool has air pockets in it and those pockets become your body temperature, so it keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. You also don't have any hot spots, so that's really good for arthritis and fibromyalgia. And it's naturally hypoallergenic," Curtis said.

Employees then tie and stitch organic cloth together to make the popular products on their shelves, with shipments going out all over the country.

Business continues to expand for this Frankenmuth company, which currently employees about 16 people with plans to add two or three more full-time workers.

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