Bob and Stormy Kromer’s Baseball Bat

Stormy Kromer Bat
A few months ago, Bob got an odd voicemail message.  The caller stated that he had a ‘ceremonial’ baseball bat that had belonged to George Kromer and was wondering if anyone here at the company had an interest in it.

Indeed we did.

As it turns out, the bat was a part of George’s estate that had wound up with his estate attorney’s family.  After some negotiations involving Stormy Kromer apparel, the bat has found its way here to SK Headquarters.

The bat, a Louisville Slugger, has an inscription that reads:
TESTIMONIAL DINNER, GEO. STORMY KROMER, NOVEMBER 5, 1954.

Stormy Kromer Bat
You can see the bat on display here at Stormy Kromer when you come for one of our free factory tours – offered Monday through Friday at 1:30 pm.

Handmade by Her: Patti Budgick, an outerwear legend.

Stormy Kromer Patti Budgick
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
PB:
I’m the work-lead for the outerwear line. That means I do a little of everything when it comes to our vests, the Town Coat, the Mackinaw Coat and the Airman’s Jacket. I make sure the orders get done in order; I make sure the shelves are stocked; and I sew right alongside my girls.

SK: That’s all?
PB:
Almost. I’m a supervisor, so there’s management duties, too. I help employees with personal stuff, if they need it. We’re pretty close around here.

SK: So what’s Bob (Jacquart, owner) like as a person?
PB: He knows what he’s doing. He’s got a good background. He’s a nice guy, easy to talk to. Bob’s got a good company to work for—they put employees first. And taking care of your kids is very important to him, so if your kid’s sick or something, he’s very supportive.

SK: What’s the best day you’ve ever had on the job?
PB:
I’ve been here so long, I don’t know if I can remember it! Seriously, it’s just great to work here.

SK: How long?
PB: Twelve years with Bob at Jacquart Fabric Products and two years now at Stormy Kromer.

SK: What do you do when you’re not making great outdoor gear?
PB:
Well, my husband is an avid fisherman, and I’m not. So I sit in the boat with my historical romance novels.

SK: What’s your single favorite Kromer item?
PB:
Petal Pusher, hands down. My husband, Rick, wears the original and always has. But they put that flower on there, and it’s adorable!

SK: We talk about being “True. Since 1903.” What does that mean to you?
PB:
We’re true to the American way of doing things. True to the legend and what we believe a legend should be. True to the craft and to old-fashioned standards. We’re authentic in everything we do.

SK: Anything else you want to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
PB:
We’re a happy little family here, and we all work together to make sure Stormy Kromer gear is an exceptional value. We take an extreme amount of pride in our work.

Inspected by Her: Eagle-Eye Jackson, also known as Lynn.

Lynn Jackson Stormy Kromer
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
LJ:
I’m one of three inspectors, and I make sure every cap that goes out is perfect. All the threads have to be cut off, the earband has to be straight, the monogramming needs to be good, no skipped stitches. Everything. On every cap.

SK: So how many caps is that for you?
LJ:
Well, in five years as an inspector (she’s been with the company for seven), that makes over half a million caps. Wow. I guess that’s why they call me “Eagle-Eye.”

SK: What’s the best day you’ve ever had on the job?
LJ:
We hit 612 caps in one day and every single one was perfect—not even a string to snip off.

SK: What’s the strangest day?
LJ: When nothing goes right. But, you know, that doesn’t happen too often around here.

Inspecting Stormy Kromer Caps
SK: How does it feel to know you’re stitching together a legend?
LJ:
I feel like a movie star. I love it. I’ve already got my picture in the newspaper—me inspecting a cap. Got it up in my living room. I’m proud. I’m the one who gets to inspect and help make that cap. It says we’re doing a good job, you know?

SK: Absolutely. It says a lot about your standards.
LJ:
Yes. It’s gotta be 100%. There can’t be anything wrong with any of the gear that goes out our doors. So I look at it like I’m buying it. You don’t want a thread hanging off that you pull and it unravels. That’s not Stormy Kromer. No, it’s gotta be perfect.

SK: What does “made in America” mean to you?
LJ:
We’re the only sewing company around anymore. We love our jobs. We’re proud of this. And here, you get something sewn to perfection.

SK: Anything you else you want to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
LJ:
When you buy a cap, you know that Eagle-Eye has looked at it!

Handmade by Her: Barb Wilman, Stormy Kromer Seamstress

This fall, we’d like to help you get to know the fine men and women at Stormy Kromer a little better through a series of employee interviews.  We’ll start by meeting longtime employee Barb Wilman.

Barb Wilman, Stormy Kromer Seamstress
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
BW:
Just about anything they ask. I’ve spent the last 4-5 years sewing the caps—putting in the inside labels and the piece that attaches the earband. I’ve done every job on that line.

SK: So how long have you been at SK?
BW:
I’ve worked for Bob (Jacquart, of Jacquart Fabric Products and Stormy Kromer) for over 20 years now. I enjoy it here. It’s really like my family.

SK: It actually is your family, isn’t it?
BW: Yes, extended family. My husband, Jim, has worked here 15 years.

SK: How would you describe the company to an outsider?
BW:
Oh, my gosh. I get teary-eyed because Bob has taken such good care of me. And if you give the man an honest day’s work, he’ll pay you an honest wage.

SK: What part of all this are you most proud of?
BW: It might sound kind of odd, but seven years ago, my son started work on the BNSF railroad.  Now he’s an engineer, just like Mr. Kromer himself. I’m so proud of that.

SK: What’s the toughest part of the job?
BW:
Getting up in the morning.

SK: Is there anything else you’d rather be doing, other than sleeping in?
BW:
Nope. And that’s ironic because my mother used to sew my clothes, and she’d say to me “Whoever thought you’d sew for a living.” Well, apparently I really enjoy this.

SK: What’s your favorite Kromer cap color?
BW:
People sure seem to love the partridge plaid, but I think I’ll stick with my pink one.

SK: Why does “Made in America” matter to you?
BW:
Businesses send so many jobs overseas, it’s like we’re not taking care of our own in this country. People say there aren’t jobs here, well, we’re proving them wrong.

SK: Anything else you want to tell Kromer fans?
BW:
Come on up to the U.P.—to God’s country—and take a tour. We’d be more than happy to show you how we make your Kromers.

Meet Our Employees – Shipping

Ladies and gentleman, we’d like to introduce you to three very special employees:  Patti, Missy and Allison.  You see, these fine ladies package up each and every Stormy Kromer order and send your new caps off to you with pride.

As orders have grown over the past few years, the physical space this team has used to pick and pack orders has been shrinking.  We thought they deserved a brand new space to do their very important work.

Our new distribution center – which sits within one of our buildings – is wrapped with a full color vinyl banner, and even has a place for our tour visitors to sign their name.

It also gives our team all the space they need to organize, store and prepare orders for shipment.

The next time you order from us…and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of your package…you can thank Patti, Missy and Allison for its delivery!

Our 3rd Annual Cornhole Tournament

Playing Cornhole (also known as Corn Toss, Bean Bag, Bean Toss, Soft Horseshoes, Indiana Horseshoes, and more) – has become an annual tradition here at Stormy Kromer.  For the third summer in a row, employees paired off into teams and played in our very competitive, double-elimination tournament.

This year’s tourney counted 18 teams, representing every department of the company.  Playing in our parking lot (or warehouse on rainy days), the teams battled it out during their morning breaks and lunchtimes, with many matches attracting a number of spectators.

Complete with popcorn for the excited fans, our Championship Match featured Carol & Dennis vs. Tim & Denise.  While the crowd was hoping for a competitive and lengthy match, Carol & Dennis remained undefeated and cruised to victory with a score of 15-6.

Our Champions received a cash prize, but more importantly, earned the right to proudly display the prestigious Cornhole Trophies which will stay at their work stations until next year’s tournament.  Last year’s winners, Rick & Larry, begrudgingly handed them over at our Trophy Presentation on August 29th.

Congratulations to Carol & Dennis (in yellow), and thanks to all of our 2012 teams for participating!

Stormy Kromer Plaid Designs for 2013

One of the most popular posts since launching our blog was “Developing Stormy Kromer Plaids”, posted last September.  We had 69 comments to that post with so many great suggestions on naming our plaids.  In fact, we named one of our new Ida Shirt fabrics using one of your suggestions (sorry, it’s not available quite yet on our website, but stay tuned!).

Ida Shirt in Chocolay - Available Soon!

Chocolay (which also happens to be a township in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), was a perfect moniker for the the rich browns, beiges and blues in this new shirt.

We’ve got two new plaids that have just gone into the sampling process.  We can’t tell you what products they will be used in, but once again, we would love your suggestions on names for these new designs.  Perhaps your idea will be showing up on products in fall 2014!

Let the suggestions begin!

Mr. Grossman, You are the Caretaker of a Legend.

All employees here at Stormy Kromer receive this nifty plaque when they are hired, reminding them of the rich Kromer history they are keeping alive.

We all have fun displaying them on our desks, sewing machines and other work stations.  It gives everyone a little extra sense of pride.

So we got to thinking, who else deserves this honor?

Last month, at a long overdue dinner meeting in Milwaukee, Bob Jacquart, our CEO, presented Dick Grossman with a special Caretaker of a Legend plaque.

If you need a quick refresher, Mr. Grossman was the second owner of the Kromer Cap Company, having purchased it from Stormy himself in the mid-60′s.  In 2001, after one meeting and a handshake, Bob and Dick had an agreement which moved the Kromer Blizzard Cap to its current home in Ironwood, MI.  Dick continued running the Kromer Cap Company for a few more years in Milwaukee, manufacturing the company’s cotton caps used by welders, railroad workers, and other tradespeople.

At 79, Dick is now retired from the hat business.  He’s as high-energy as ever, and is downright giddy about the success of Stormy Kromer over the past 10 years.  He’s pretty sure that Stormy would be proud of us too.

Presenting this small token of appreciation to him seemed the least that we could do.  Without him, who knows what would have been the fate of the now iconic cap?  He believed in the product, in making things in the USA, and in good old-fashioned quality.  He kept things going until the next Caretaker was ready to take over.

And for that Dick, we tip our caps to you.

Hat’s off to our Dads

Earlier this week, we asked our employees to share with us some bit of advice they got from their dads.  In turn, we thought we’d share these words of wisdom with you.  From the practical to the silly, they are a great reminder for us to say thanks to our dads this weekend for all they do for us.

Enjoy!

“The day before I got married my Dad pulled me aside and said, ‘Before you go I need to teach you a couple of things: 1) how to change a flat tire because every girl needs to know how to change a tire and 2) how to make a batch of homemade spaghetti sauce because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! ‘”
-Kirsten, Customer Service

“My dad, the founder of Jacquart Fabric Products once told me, ‘Once you start working 12 hours a day, your luck will change.’”
-Bob, CEO

“My dad always told me while in the car and a deer crosses, ‘When there’s one, there’s two.’  I frequently find myself repeating him now when I see a deer, and of course once the second deer crosses, I feel that it’s “okay” to continue.  (Until that third one runs across one day!)”
-Katie, Customer Service

“Always have a firm handshake.”
-KJ, Key Accounts

“My dad was a man of very few words and I learned from him over the years by simply watching what he would do rather than what he would say.  He treated everyone with respect, therefore, he was respected.  He was indeed a legendary dad.”
-Joel, Sales Manager

We’d love to know what you’ve learned from your father in the comments below.  In the meantime, Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there!

Featured Retailer: Yoder Department Store

If you can’t find it at Yoder’s, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t need it.

The U.S. Census Bureau lists the population of Shipshewana, Indiana, at 658, which is roughly the same number of people who’ll be in line in front of you, waiting to get into the Yoder Department Store parking lot. Yep. People who need stuff, get stuff here.

“It’s not uncommon in the summer for folks to wait ten, maybe fifteen minutes to park their car,” said Andre Yoder, the third-generation general manager of this little town’s massive mercantile. “The flee market and auction across the street can draw up to 10,000 people in a two-day stretch, and a lot of them stop by because they know what we have to offer.”

What Yoder’s has to offer isn’t so much a step back in time—you’ll find all the latest clothing styles mixed in with tons of traditional favorites—it’s just that the style of service customers enjoyed decades ago is still thriving here.

Take, for example, the fact that second-generation owner Janet Yoder started working at the store when she was 13 and just recently retired at the age of 77. Many of the current employees, too, have been working here for more than 10, 20 or even 30 years. These are people who know how to treat a customer.

And if, for some reason, you want eight pairs of jeans with a 66-inch waist and they only have five (they really do have this size, by the way, and they have that many in stock), they’ll get them for you. Pronto.

That’s service you don’t see all that often.

“People come here to be taken care of and because they’ll find quality products at fair prices,” added Yoder. “Those are the same reasons we carry Stormy Kromer: great apparel, good prices, made in America. Those things matter here.”

As if to prove the point, Yoder’s menswear/work apparel manager, Tim Hethcote, recalled the story of a fellow who stopped in to get his son-in-law a gift. “He bought a couple Stormy Kromer flannel shirts, took them home, gave into temptation, tried them on, and kept them,” said Hethcote. “He eventually bought his son-in-law something else.”

No doubt he found it at Yoder’s.