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Built by Hand, By Sheryl Jensen Through Old-World Traditions and New Innovations, Frost River Emphasizes Craft and Quality W “Our forefathers—the loggers and trappers and traders and adventurers who called the deep North Woods home—relied on their packs to perform in unforgiving and unrelenting environs. That expectation, that urgency for performance, was passed on to us.” ith those words, Frost River’s website acknowl- edges an homage to the past and a vision for the future of this outdoor and travel gear busi- ness. It is a company that chooses to honor the work ethic of “the old-world craftsmen, trap- pers, miners and makers” with every leather strap, rivet, seam and piece of solid brass hardware on every prod- uct it creates. While it’s a relatively new busi- ness, everything about Frost River and its “reliable softgoods” company seems like it might have been handed down for generations, or, as the web- site puts it, “This company started 250 years ago, kind of . . . “ UNLIKELY BEGINNING When owner/proprietor Chris- tian Benson offered to help his friend Jared Rinerson get a fledgling leather chopper mitten business off the ground, he never expected it would lead to reinventing a brand and start- ing his own company. Benson and his wife, Dr. Andrea Hustad Benson (a Duluth native), had lived in the Twin Cities and Roch- ester while she was completing her 32 Duluthian MARCH.APRIL 2017 medical training and working on a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. When she was offered a job in Duluth at St. Luke’s Hospital as an anesthesiologist, the couple and their three daughters made the move. Benson had been working for many years in marketing for a large Plym- outh, Minn.-based engineering firm. When his wife took the St. Luke’s posi- tion, he knew he would be choosing a new career path for himself in Duluth. In 2009, when he and Rinerson were looking for one piece of equipment (a hydraulic press for stamping out the leather pieces for the mittens/choppers business), they ended up in a pole barn in Floodwood, Minn. Steve Emerson, who had started Frost River in 2001, was closing down shop and selling all the equipment due to lean years in the economic downturn following 9/11.