Made in the USA: The Journey of an American Sewing Manufacturer

By Bob Jacquart, CEO

In 1974, when I started working for my dad in his canvas repair shop with one other employee, I never once thought that “made in America” would ever mean something significant to me – and to our country.

As our small sewing business evolved – around the time I was 30 – I learned that I could employ more people by taking on higher volume production work. The thought of being a fair and just employer in my small town was just too irresistible for importing to ever cross my mind.  At that time, Jacquart Fabric Products (JFP) started making gun cases, polar fleece hats and pet beds.

Employees hold an American Flag sewn at JFP

Manufacturing pet beds soon became the largest part of our company.  Around the early 90s, China started making headway into this industry with some of our commercial customers.  At this time I started to become aware of the very serious threats that China (and other countries) might pose to us – especially as regards to labor costs.

As more and more US cut and sew operations began to close their doors, we tried to keep focus on viable models for US production.  We realized that one advantage we had over overseas production was our ability to produce shorter, more customized and individualized products.

Around 2000, even this advantage began to go away.  At that time, pet products became commodity items:  you could buy a pet bed at every big box store for $10-$20.  These are retail prices you cannot compete with when you are paying honest wages and benefits for employees supporting families.

We finally realized that importing would have to become a part of our pet bed business.  We now do a combination of importing raw goods and components and complete the final assembly here.  We are still employing US workers in the pet bed business, but just in a different way.

In 2001, JFP was  blessed – yes, blessed – by having the opportunity to buy Stormy Kromer.  This was finally another viable American-made model:  a brand with an authentic history and heritage that as we found out from our customers, had to be made in the USA.

The challenge remains that US manufacturing is hard.  And expensive.  Every new product we work on involves pretty intense debates about the cost of adding extra features versus what the consumer is willing to pay for.  And while we try to source raw goods domestically, it can sometimes be nearly impossible.

But despite all that, here we are…and growing.

Do you think we will survive?  I think that’s a no-brainer.  With amazing fans and customers like you, who value quality in their apparel and outerwear – and with two wonderful daughters in this third-generation sewing business, we plan to take Stormy Kromer and his legend to places we all never dreamed of!

15 thoughts on “Made in the USA: The Journey of an American Sewing Manufacturer

  1. Bob,
    I met you several years ago at the Start magazine function. I was already aware of Stormy Kromer (living in Michigan will do that) but I became a big fan after finding out more about the company. Our companies have a lot in common. . .both very committed to U.S. and Michigan made products in spite of the almost seemingly endless obstacles.

    Good luck with everything and thank you for your commitment to our wonderful state.
    Donn Deniston

    • Hey there Donn,

      How nice to hear from you. I can’t quite remember how long ago it was that we were at the START event but I am betting that it is longer than I would guess. Stormy Kromer has been a wonderful project for us and it alone reinforces my commitment to Made in the US each and every day. Daughters Gina and KJ along with myself and the rest of our team are committed to this and we not only want to continue to be a great company for our employees but now we have the potential to be a big help in bringing people to our wonderful town. If by any chance you are ever in the area, I am up for a tour and some pasties.

      Best wishes back to you

      Bob Jacquart

  2. It isn;t just about made in USA. It’s the QUALITY ! Jacquart”s and SK have set the bar very high for all American workers and companies. I challenge all of them to achieve their level of quality, their level of pride in products.I challenge all of them to WANT to attract customers to American made products. Perhaps maybe then will we see the great variety of quality products that were once available to consumers. I challenge all companies to stop being complacent about letting production happen overseas. It’s difficult, sure, but don’t give in. From everything I can gather, consumers are very hungry for USA-made goods.
    Way to go, Jacquarts !! Way to “set the bar”.

  3. Oddly enough, I’ve seen Kromers for years without knowing their names or their origins. Knowing where they’re manufactured is the icing on the cake – I ordered two caps last week, and am going to order two more for Christmas gifts.
    I am increasingly aware of the origins of my purchases, and am trying more and more to insist on American-made products – - if made in Michigan, so much the better.
    I myself work in manufacturing (I build F-150s in Dearborn) and have a huge stake in “Made In America”. It seems strange to me that I have to preach the “Built here/Bought here” doctrine to even my fellow UAW members…but there are many who still haven’t gotten the message.I understand that a pair of Chinese-made boots are cheaper than American ones…but what are we REALLY costing ourselves in the long run?
    Look up “Buddy’s Jeans” for a good sturdy pair of American-made britches (even the POCKETS are made of denim) – and tell ‘em Wayne Heath sent you!

    • Wayne

      You guys are doing great things down at Ford. I just received an article in the Ann Arbor paper about us at Stormy Kromer from a friend named John who was born 7 miles from here. I met John a few years back while giving him and his uncle Vince and their wives a tour of our factory. Near the end, John took a hat for his Saturday breakfast friend Bill ( I think his last name was Ford). I am not sure what happened with all of that but you let the folks there know that whenever they want to co-celebrate a birthday together, both of our 110ths are coming up in 2013.
      We are proud to have started the same year as Ford and the birth of flight.

      Take care and please make sure you stop in if you are ever in the area. Just go north, cross the bridge, turn left and drive 5 1/2 hours.

      Sincerely,

      Bob Jacquart

  4. I WILL DRIVE A LONG WAY TO PURCHASE ANYTHING WITH THE “made in america” logo inside it. I buy most of my clothes on the internet at allusaclothing.com. There is no doubt I pay more, but the quality doesn’t compare with foreign junk being very inferior. It’s time everyone takes a look around and starts to realize this might be our last chance to buy Made in America. I just purchased my first STORMY KROMER original and love IT! Also a STORMY cotton shirt and will be getting more very soon. Keep up your great efforts. I for one will be throughing you name out whenever I get the chance.

  5. Thank you for making a quality American made product that I am proud to wear each and every day. Thank you for your commitment to the American workers on your team.

    There is no question your company will continue to thrive for years to come as long as you continue to produce the quality of products that the SK name has been built upon.

    Thank you!!

    K

  6. Hi, I was visiting family in the UP, and found this great cap! Much to my surprise, It was made not only in the USA, but also made in the UP!!! Being from California, it was such a wonderful thing to know that I purchased a hat made here in God’s country!!! Cheers to your company….I Love this!

  7. Thank you for purchasing the company and continuing to make a fine American product and not letting it die. I will continue to support you by purchasing your stylish, functional, and traditional caps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>