Featured Retailer: Getz’s Department Store

Unless you’re reading this from someplace like Singapore,
you’re gonna want to get to Getz’s.

We like Getz’s. A lot. A little too much, maybe. But when you’ve got three stacked floors of department store goodness packed with people who remember how things used to be done, well, it feels to us like the kind of place Mr. Kromer himself would have owned. Except he was just a kid when it opened.

Getz’s Department Store in downtown Marquette, Michigan, hung out its shingle in 1879, and aside from selling a few brands of clothing and outdoor gear that didn’t exist back then, not much has changed. And that’s the way folks like it, according to Dennis Mingay, the man in charge of menswear.

“Remember when you were a kid,
and you’d walk into an old clothing store and
smell the richness of the wool and leather?
That’s what Getz’s is, and there aren’t many places like us left.”

The big box stores have taken over, but when you sort through the thousands and thousands—and thousands—of products on the shelves, from men’s suits and Silver Jeans for women, to outdoor wear, kids’ clothes, shoes, and—get this—7,000 square feet of Carhartt, you start to wonder how the national chains could ever compete with Getz’s.

“Here’s how we beat them,” said Mingay, who happily works six days a week and is as much a figure at Getz’s as Getz’s itself. “When people come in, we greet them, we take care of them. And when they ask for a pair of pants, we walk them over to the pants, we don’t just point.”

It’s this type of traditional service and commitment to customers that drew the attention of Stormy Kromer Mercantile owner, Bob Jacquart. Shortly after buying the SK patent, he walked into the UP’s favorite department store and straight up to Dennis Mingay.

“He said ‘I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I just bought Stormy Kromer, and I’d like Getz’s to be a distributor.’ It took a little work, but just look at us now.”

Last year, Getz’s faithful fans (if that’s you, thank you!) purchased over 2,300 Kromer caps and articles of clothing. But it’s not the numbers that matter, it’s the nostalgia. Getz’s and Stormy Kromer are cut from the same cloth, if you will. They’re down-home brands built in rural America, and because they remember it’s the shopper who makes them successful, they’ve cultivated a global following.

So even if you are from Singapore, you might want to make a point of stopping by. Or at least visiting www.getzs.com.

Behind the Scenes: Stormy Kromer Staff on the Road

It’s the time of year when fall/winter brands, like ourselves, hit the road and begin showing off what’s new for Fall 2012.  We just got back from our first national trade show of the year, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

We met with over 80 retailers, current and new, over the course of the 4-day show.  While many of our new products attracted their attention (can you spot any in the above photo?), we’d have to say that “made in America” was of key importance for show attendees.

To that end, we met the crew from Liberty Bottleworks – a bunch of great folks who are making the only American made recycled metal bottle in the marketplaceOn top of that, they look pretty cool too.  Check out their products next time you’re looking for a new water bottle.

The Outdoor Retailer Show also features a  fashion show with different pieces from varied brands put together.  A number of SK items were featured, including the Petal Pusher Cap – paired here with pieces from Gentle Souls, Fox River Socks and Neve Designs.

What’s next for SK?  National trade shows in Chicago and Fort Worth, followed by a host of regional shows where we look forward to meeting with many of our customers.

Then, we start putting our thoughts towards Spring 2013.

What products would you like to see in Stormy Kromer’s first official spring collection?

The Making of the Petal Pusher

Of all of the new products we introduced in 2011, the Petal Pusher Cap has been the biggest hit.  In fact, we’ve sold over 5 times our initial sales projections for this product.  We’ve received rave reviews from the women who are wearing them and we’re hard at work on new color choices for 2012.

Because of the popularity of this product, we thought we’d share the quick story of how this cap came to be.  Through some previous blog posts, you’ve met Bob Jacquart, the CEO of Jacquart Fabric Products and Stormy Kromer.  And today, you’re going to learn about his wife, Denise.

For years, Denise worked in the business as well.  However, a few years ago, she became a unique kind of “CFO” – the Chief Family Officer.  Working in a family business that involves not just parents and daughters, but also cousins and uncles and spouses, well, it can sometimes be complicated.  So Denise now focuses on the family relationships, and making sure that part of the business is healthy.

She also has a keen sense for fashion and design.  A few years ago she got the idea that Stormy Kromer needed a feminine touch, and she played around with a few different ideas (see below) before stumbling on the idea of a flower.

The prototypes found their way into the back of a closet, and were forgotten about, until Bob and Denise’s daughter, Gina, joined the business and found them.  Gina and SK’s designer, Tamara, refined the design into the current product.

Why has this cap been so popular?  We think it’s because the design remains Kromer through and through (complete with functional earbands) while giving the ladies another option.  Honestly, we think Ida would be pretty proud.

Which brings us to a bigger question – what are your ideas for Stormy Kromer product variations?  Like Denise, you just might hit on the next big thing!

Last-minute Surprises from Stormy Kromer

Welcome to the last frantic days of the holiday season!  The employees here at Stormy Kromer feel a little like the elves at Santa’s workshop – we’ve been working seemingly around the clock to be sure that everyone who put Stormy Kromer gear on their wish list will wake up happy on Christmas morning!

If you’re still looking for that little something to stuff in a stocking, or round out someone’s gift, we’ve got a handful of fun items that just might fit the bill.

Add a little flair to a Stormy Kromer cap with a pin, or help your loved one shout to the world their love of Stormy with a bumper sticker on their vehicle of choice.

And don’t forget, for the lager-loving folks on your gift list…that we also make clothes for beer(Or other cold beverages that come in a can or bottle.)

Also…we’re hoping to make your shopping dreams come true this weekend too!  Two lucky shoppers on each day this weekend will get their orders FOR FREE!  We’ll draw Monday morning and contact the winners.

And finally, because we’ve heard it through the grapevine that Santa occasionally reads the SK blog, are there any Stormy Kromer items on your wish list?

Meet the Stormy Kromer Customer Service Gals

The only thing our Customer Service folks can’t do over the phone is serve you pie and coffee.

If you’ve got concerns, questions, or simply want to order a catalog, they’re the kind of folks you want to help you out. Extra-mile kind of people. People who love to sit and share a good story.

So, who are these lovely ladies?

(From the left…)

Kirsten Dowd has been in Customer Service for just about 2 years now.  She’s the leader of this bunch and has a way with people that is practically unmatched.  You’ll also notice her modeling SK gear on our website and in our catalog.  (And her husband graces the cover of our current catalog.)

Katie Guglielmotto has a great connection to Stormy Kromer.  You see, her mom, Mona, is one of the fine ladies who hand-sews our famous hats.  Katie not only does a great job assisting customers, but she is also one of our finest factory tour-givers.  Talk about a natural storyteller…

Angela Brannigan is a new addition to the crew, giving us a hand during the busy fall/winter/holiday season. She’s jumped in so well it feels like she’s been here forever!

Lori DeRosso does double duty for us, working both in Customer Service and accounting. (She also provides administrative support to our CEO, so let’s just say she’s a busy lady!)  In addition, Lori’s daughter just started sewing on the Kromer production line.

Starr Higgins juggles multiple roles here at Stormy Kromer and does so beautifully.  Not only will you hear her voice over the phone, you will also meet her in person if you happen to stop by our factory store.  She’s the boss of our recently refurbished store and will help you find a hat in your perfect size.

Now that you’ve gotten to know our amazing customer service crew, as well as our designer, which other members of the Stormy Kromer team would you like to meet?

Designing the Airman’s Jacket

We’ve launched a number of new designs for this fall – including a number of new apparel and outerwear items.  One of these designs is our new Airman’s Jacket – Stormy Kromer’s take on the traditional bomber jacket.

With all the interest nowadays about design – take the success of Bravo’s Project Runway for instance – we thought it might be fun to share with you a little of the design process and the evolution of a garment from sketch to production.

We start by brainstorming with our design team and in this instance, we knew we needed to add a short, or “bomber” type jacket to our line.  Tamara (who you met in this previous blog post) went back to the drawing board and came back with a number of sketches.  Here is a sampling:

In order to narrow down the sketches into a first prototype, we actually held a focus groups with factory employees.  We asked them what features they like in jackets they own currently, which design elements appealed most to them, what they would and wouldn’t wear and why.  This group of guys – who ranged in age from 35-65 – gave us some fantastic feedback, and we ended up with this final sketch:

Even this sketch doesn’t quite represent the finished product.  After patterns
are made and prototypes are sewn, you finally see that some of what you envision on paper just doesn’t translate to needle and thread.  In addition to being sure that the look and fit of the garment is just right, our Engineering Department also has to work with the design, to make sure that we can manufacture here in America at a price that will work in the marketplace.  (Stay tuned for a blog post soon about the joys and challenges of U.S. manufacturing…)

At the end of all that hard work, we finally have a product that our team looks at and says, “Yes!”  We hope that you do too..

Now it’s your turn: what products should our design team tackle next?

 

 

 

Developing Stormy Kromer Plaids

In addition to designing new products each year, our product development team also has

the task of developing new plaid designs to be used on existing products.  This fall, we are launching three new exclusive Stormy Kromer plaids: Superior, Wintergreen and Mapleberry.

So, how does an exclusive Stormy Kromer plaid get developed anyway?  Our team sits down over a year before a product is released to look at color trends for that year and we put together palettes. Then, we draw the specific plaid designs on the computer.  We send that off to our factory, review a series of handlooms, and, voilà, we have finished wool!

Then comes the fun part – naming the new plaids!  Have you ever looked at crayons or paint swatches and thought, “Boy, it sure would be fun to come up with these names!”  Well, we can assure you, it is fun.

We asked our employees for help last year, and with their input we came up with the fine monikers you see here – Superior (in honor of that great lake just north of us), Wintergreen and Mapleberry.   You will find these new wools being used in caps – like the Original, Ida and Petal Pusher, and also in some new 2011 products like the Kromer Carryall and Ida’s Mittens.

This year, we’d like to ask for your help.  Below are photos of two new plaids we are developing for 2012.  While we can’t reveal what products they are for, we’d love your suggestions on names.

What name would you give these new Stormy Kromer plaids? Just reply to this post with all your creative ideas!

 

Behind the Scenes: The New Stormy Kromer Website

By now you’ve probably figured out the Stormy Kromer website got a bit of a facelift a few weeks ago.  We’ve showcased some of our new products and displayed some of our latest photography. You have also obviously found our new blog.  But

what else is new or different on the site?

Perhaps because of our location in Michigan’s beautiful yet remote Upper Peninsula, our friendly Customer Service folks are often inundated with phone calls simply asking us weather-related questions.  Things like, “I know it’s only September, but do you have snow on the ground yet?” or “How far below zero is the wind chill today?”

We thought we would help solve your weather quandaries by simply providing live, up to the minute Ironwood weather, right on our homepage.  In the upper right corner you can see the current conditions, the snowfall for the season, and even click over to the full Ironwood forecast. (Of course, if you’d prefer to call Kirsten or Katie in Customer Service, they’ll still be glad to chat!)

Right below the main images on the homepage are three smaller boxes – two of them will usually link to this blog and our Facebook page, and the third will change to promote our latest news, contest or announcement – like our Tall Tails Fishing Derby, which incidentally, will only be running for a few more weeks, so enter now!

Finally, don’t forget about two special features that come with your Stormy Kromer cap purchase:  our Lifetime Guarantee and No-Charge Insurance Policy.  In addition to guaranteeing the craftsmanship of our caps, you can also insure your cap against loss.  The links to learn more about these features have been moved to the lower right corner of our homepage.

What are your thoughts about our new site?  If you have favorite features or feedback, please share it with us in the comments.

Stormy Kromer Behind the Scenes: Meet our Designer

Going head-to-head with Stormy Kromer Senior Designer, Tamara Ehle.

We work in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—a rugged, outdoorsy place that suits our wool-cap-wearing customers just fine, but seems an unlikely fit for someone who’s devoted her life to both fashion and design.

Her name is Tamara (pronounced ta-MAR-a, it’s a beautiful new twist on a familiar name that hints at the fresh new looks she’s bringing to our 100-year-old cap company) and she fits in quite well, thank you.

You can read her like an open book: one with brightly colored pictures, an inspiring story line and a genuinely happy ending. And when you find out she’s responsible for designing Stormy Kromer’s new line of caps, jackets, pants, vests, shirts and a vast array of women’s clothing, you’ll be glad she came up to our little corner of the world. Here’s what she has to say about how she got here:

SK: You’re a fashion designer living in the Northwoods. How did that happen?

TE: I followed love, literally. My husband had always wanted to live in the Northwoods, so we packed up and moved. Then, one day, he had a meeting in Ironwood and said he wanted to stop by the Stormy Kromer factory. I found out they gave tours, so said I’d come along, bring the kids, and make it a family outing. When I got there, that’s when I really fell in love.

SK: So, the tour went well?

TE: I’ve worked in and visited clothing manufacturers across the country and around the globe, but I’d never seen anything like Stormy Kromer. My heart was racing, my stomach fluttering. I was so excited to see the giant fabric rolls I wanted to hug them. The people, the technology, the laughter—I was infatuated and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

SK: You’d worked for the likes of Harley Davidson and Lord & Taylor. You have a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Were you ready to hand over your résumé on the spot?

TE: When you live up here, you don’t expect to find a fashion designer job just down the road, so I hesitated for a few weeks before deciding to go for it. But they were looking for someone like me. I just couldn’t believe it.

SK: Had you heard of Stormy Kromer before?

TE: Other than my husband’s cap, no. But it seems everybody knows someone who had that cap, so everything we do reflects that part of the Kromer heritage.

SK: That’s a long-standing heritage, too, with a predominantly male audience. How did you see yourself working into that?

TE: I felt like I could collaborate with the company because it was going in a new direction—adding new styles and products, reaching new customers and demographics. I’ve studied and collected vintage clothing my whole life, and I love finding ways to make it new again. This just seemed like the perfect fit.

SK: How else have you helped Stormy Kromer move beyond being simply a hat company?

TE: Again, everything ties back to that original wool cap. We’re just taking that 1940s feel and making it work even better today, whether it’s on the Bunkhouse Trousers, our ladies’ Walking Coat, or our Deck Shirt. I’m looking at interesting new plaids, changing the size of the squares and playing with color. We’re keeping the classic Kromer cut while updating the styles and working with a younger, more modern fit. We’re taking the outdoor lifestyle and making it more attractive to more people.

SK: When did you first know you needed to be a designer?

TE: When I was four, I cut up my mother’s lingerie to make Barbie clothes. Let’s just say Mom was not impressed.

SK: What’s more inspiring: a great outfit or a really good walk in the woods?

TE: Both.

SK: What else influences you when it comes to Stormy Kromer design?

TE: Everything from runway shows in New York City to comments from customers down the block. I shop in thrift stores; I look through old photos and boxes of old clothes; I watch how sunlight hits the leaves; I wear our products out in the elements; I imagine Mr. and Mrs. Kromer when they were young and try to tailor my designs to how they’d live today; I look at flowers blooming as often as I look at color forecasts; and I get really excited when cutting out the patterns. I feel like a sculptor liberating a form from a piece of stone.

SK: So, um, what are you wearing right now?

TE: I knew you’d ask me that! I’m wearing a blueberry zip-neck top and black climbing pants. Usually, I wear a rainbow of colors.

SK: How would your friends describe you?

TE: Optimistic. A dreamer. Full of ideas. And always having one more thing to say.

SK: So what else do you have to say?

TE: If I had not found Stormy Kromer, I would have withered up and blown away. There aren’t words big and majestic enough to describe how I feel.

SK: How should people decide what look is right for them?

TE: Try everything on, and I mean everything on the rack—from left to right. Even if you think it won’t fit right or is the wrong color. Trust me, you’re in for a few pleasant surprises.

SK: What will we see next from Stormy Kromer?

TE: Ooh, I can’t tell you that. But look for some very feminine colors, younger-looking cuts and some fun, functional accessories.

SK: So, is it okay to wear white after Labor Day?

TE: Of course!

To find out more about the new designs and outdoor apparel products from Stormy Kromer, start shopping now!