Employees of the new Duluth Trading Co. store were busy last week preparing for its upcoming opening in the Doerflinger building at 400 Main St. in downtown La Crosse.

The first shipments of merchandise were scheduled to arrive last week at the 11,000-square-foot store, which will occupy most of the first floor and use part of the basement level for storage.

The new Duluth Trading Co. store will celebrate its grand opening June 16 with lumberjack shows and barbecue at noon and 5 p.m. It may have a soft opening a few days before that, said Mark Pickart, district store manager.

“This is the best thing that’s happened to downtown La Crosse retail-wise in decades,” said Mike Keil, who with his wife Karen bought and began renovating the Doerflinger building in 2004.

Parts of the building underwent major remodeling to prepare for the new tenant. The new Duluth Trading Co. signs on the building’s exterior include one on the corner with a re-creation of the rotating clock from the days of Doerflinger’s department store — which closed in 1984.

Cleo Murphy, who worked at the department store in the 1970s and 1980s and was visual merchandise manager when it closed, will be a part-time sales associate at the new Duluth Trading Co. store, Pickart said.

The new store will employ eight people full time and 38 part time, he said.

The store manager is Troy Hegge, who previously managed the Office Depot store in La Crosse.

“We loved the building and the craftsmanship of the building,” Pickart said of the company’s decision to open a store there.

“The Doerflinger building has a storied history and the building is ripe with character and thoughtful detail,” he said. “That’s something we try to incorporate into each piece of our workwear.”

The store’s interior features some old artifacts such as tables, saws and lathes, as well as photos from La Crosse’s past.

There’s also a hospitality area -- dubbed the Main St. Lounge because the store is on Main Street -- where customers can watch Duluth Trading Co. videos, look through books (which are for sale) with tradesmen and outdoor themes, and have complimentary water, coffee or tea.

Duluth Trading Co., now based in Belleville, Wis., near Madison, was founded in 1989 in Duluth, Minn., when two tradesmen brothers from Duluth designed and built the Bucket Boss to help workers carry tools easily to job sites.

The company today is known as a retailer of high-quality, functional casual wear, workwear and accessories for men and women. It uses humor and storytelling in marketing products in its stores, website and mail-order catalogs.

Some of the apparel that Duluth Trading Co. is best known for includes Longtail T Shirts (“It’s the cure for plumber’s butt,” Pickart said of the extra-long T shirts), Buck Naked Underwear with no pinch and no sweat and Fire Hose Workwear that is promoted as “tougher than an angry beaver’s teeth.”

Besides apparel, Duluth Trading Co. sells footwear; workshop items such as tools, tool bags, knives and supplies; and accessories such as belts, bags, luggage, wallets, hats, gloves, sunglasses and watches.

The new La Crosse location is the company’s 10th retail store and its fifth in Wisconsin. It also has stores in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. This fall, it will open two more locations, in the Chicago suburbs of Downers Grove and Hoffman Estates, Ill.

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