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    Photos by Terrence Humphrey 

    Wood chips flew across Yum! Center Plaza last Thursday when a trio of lumberjacks gathered to demonstrate their trade, with a little friendly competition, for an audience of 50 or so. They chopped wood, cracked jokes, talked history and turned some endearingly ugly chainsaw art into a log chair for a spectator to take home.

    The spectacle promoted the grand opening of a Duluth Trading Company outlet at 113 West Main Street. It is the first tenant of the refurbished Whiskey Row and the first major retailer to operate downtown since the ’90’s. Once the flannel ribbon was cut, director of economic development for the city Scott Hermann presented the store with a plaque welcoming the company, whose brand it said “fits snuggly into the tradition and history of Louisville.”

    “We hope that this will be the start of a retail renaissance that will build up downtown,” store manager Ryan Pasbrig said. “We’re excited to start providing quality goods to Louisville and Southern Indiana.”

    Headquartered in Belleville, Wisconsin, Duluth Trading Company specializes in high-performance work wear. The company is perhaps best known for its humorous commercials, which advertise such products as “Buck-Naked Underwear” and “Anti-Plumber Butt Shirts.” Step into the store, though, and you will find a wide variety of products — garden tools, pet products, hand creams, retro toys and of course a wall-to-wall rainbow of flannel shirts in every pattern imaginable.

    “We’ve had pretty good business since the soft open last Thursday, considering we didn’t advertise it at all,” Pasbrig said. “Louisville is a great word-of-mouth city.”

    The store’s interior is arranged like most modern retailers, but it retains the feel of the Belknap Hardware Store that used to occupy the building. Photos of the old store can be seen in the back of the shop, along with an impressive display of cooper’s tools that covers an entire wall. The whole operation hearkens back, wherever possible, to a bygone age of American industry.

    “The great thing about opening here in Louisville is being a part of the Whiskey Row renovation,” Pasbrig said. “We’re grateful that we get to invest in a community we want to invest in us, and to have such a historic building to operate out of.”

    Construction worker Hoyt Stockdale stopped by the store on a break from the restoration of the Old Forester building next door. This wasn’t his first time shopping here either — he checked out the new Duluth outlet after the soft opening last week.

    “I always wanted to try their stuff, but of course online you can’t put your hands on it to tell if it’s right,” Stockdale said. “It’s so much easier when you can see it and try it on.”

    Duluth set its sights on Louisville because analytics of online orders showed that its products were popular here. While the chain’s outlets are concentrated in the Midwest, this grand opening is part of the company’s recent expansion into southern and western markets.

    Wherever it goes, though, it stays true to its roots. That’s why it uses competitive lumberjacks and lumberjills as brand ambassadors — besides drawing attention to the store, their woodsy antics put Duluth’s work wear through its paces and bring the brand’s North Woods heritage to life.

    Lumberjill Samantha Hadley, who emceed the timbersports demonstration, thought that the opening of the Louisville store presented a unique opportunity to celebrate two aspects of American history.

    “I think it’s really cool that the store is in a repurposed historical building, and that it ties in with lumberjack sports, which keeps that part of our nation’s past alive,” Hadley said.

    The store is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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