Montevideo, Minn.-based American Surplus offers an eclectic array of wares: cheap sunglasses, popcorn, refrigerator magnets. But you’d never know it from the selection in the aisles, but this is the epicenter of a revolution in ice fishing houses.

According to a Lincoln Journal Star report, in the back of the warehouselike building, about 80 workers furiously are building Ice Castle ice fishing houses, the brand that is rapidly becoming ubiquitous across the Upper Midwest’s ice-fishing belt.

As the ice thickens and holiday tasks are laid to rest, perhaps as many as 11,000 Ice Castles will be towed across frozen lakes, where they’ll join the ranks of generations of home-fashioned ice houses that form the shantytown communities that annually spring up above sand bars where walleye, perch and other fish will, with any luck, be hooked all winter long.

When you think of a wheelhouse that can be hauled along the highway and onto the ice road and then lowered onto the ice, you probably picture an Ice Castle.

In one of the worst economies in generations, the brand continues to grow, to the point where “ice castle” is becoming a generic term for wheeled ice-fishing houses. The company is scrambling to keep up with orders, and a slew of competitors — including national recreational-vehicle makers — are entering the fray.

The brand claims 56% of the market share in Minnesota. According to Omaha-based A.C. Nelsen RV World, the top-selling travel trailer recreational vehicle (ice house or not) in Minnesota is the Ice Castle. Eat your heart out, Winnebago.

“We didn’t know it was going to be this big,” confessed Jeff Drexler, the owner of American Surplus, which owns and builds Ice Castles in Montevideo, with almost exclusively American-made parts, many manufactured in Minnesota. “It’s huge.”

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