Featured Stormy Kromer Retailer: Alice’s Wonderland

Stormy Kromer Dealer Alice's Wonderland

We’re about as far from the mall as you can get.

You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person to shop at Alice’s Wonderland, but you do have to travel through a good deal of rural Pennsylvania countryside to get there. And when you’ve gone far enough to think you’ve gone too far, keep driving. You’re almost there.

You see, when you look at it the way the Karpiak family does (these are the fine folks who’ve run Alice’s for four generations now), you have to ask yourself: Where else would you put an outdoor store? In town?

The Karpiaks have a keen sense for what (and where) their store should be. Take Grandpa Paul, for example. When he bought the place in 1940 and named it after his wife, Alice, it was a restaurant. But because farm families didn’t tend to dine out all that often—and they did ask Paul to pick up a shirt or two when he went into the city for supplies—he decided to shift the focus of the family business to clothes and other outdoor gear.

“If it didn’t have a purpose, it went away,” said PJ Karpiak, Paul’s grandson and co-owner of the store. “That’s how Grandpa took care of things, and that’s pretty much how we still run the show today. We sell products that solve people’s problems, and if we don’t believe in the clothes or coats or boots or caps, we won’t put them on our shelves.”

Sometimes that means they don’t stock the latest fads, but that’s just what makes Alice’s Wonderland so popular.

“Our customers are the kind of people who spend their lives outside,” added Karpiak, “and they’re not going to come back if you sell them something that doesn’t stand up to their lifestyle.”

This philosophy stems from a belief in serving the customer the way shopkeepers used to. Because, as the Karpiaks say, “You can buy anything you want on the internet (at Alice’s website, in fact) but you visit the shop for a reason. To be helped.”

This philosophy is also the reason Alice’s now sells Stormy Kromer wool caps and clothes.

“Kromer fits us perfectly. It’s a great product with a great history, and when people say ‘You can’t find anything good that’s made in the USA,’ this is what I show them.”

And when you find our way out to Alice’s Wonderland, you’ll know the trip was worth it.

Featured Retailer: Mast General Store

Stop by and see what hasn’t changed in the last 129 years.

There’s an 80-year-old man in the village of Valle Crucis, North Carolina, who can’t remember a day he didn’t head down to Mast General Store for lunch—a plug of baloney and a cold glass of Yoo-Hoo.

He’s not alone. Most folks in this tiny, Blue-Ridge-Mountain town (and thousands more from the surrounding region) depend on the Mast Store for virtually everything a person needs for life. Shoes, socks, shirts and outdoor gear—plus things like jams, jellies, hand-made furniture and the sort of service you’d expect at the turn of the century.

Just not the last turn of the century.

Mast General Store opened in 1883 to take care of the friends and neighbors who farmed the surrounding lands. And even though generations of those farmers have turned into generations of city-dwellers, they continue to seek the authenticity the Store was founded on.

“We still ask our patrons what they need us to stock, and that’s what we put on our shelves,” said Sheri Moretz, Community Relations Manager for all nine Mast Stores. “It works like retail is supposed to: recognizing and caring about customers, welcoming them with conversation, keeping them as friends.”

Walk in the store and see it for yourself. The first thing you’ll notice is people playing checkers at the potbellied stove with bottle caps off a few old-fashioned Coca-Colas. The next thing you’ll notice is the Post Office, where Valle Crucis still gets its mail. After that, grab yourself a cup of coffee—it’s a nickel, and that’s on the honor system—then mosey up and down the aisles. (Literally up and down, too, because the floor isn’t so level after all these years.)

You can also take a seat on the liar’s bench out front, which is where many good tales are told.

“We love stories here at Mast Store,” added Moretz before diving into one about the time the Charles Kuralt came in for a visit. “He wrote an article about us and said ‘Where should I send you to know the Soul of the South? I think I’ll send you to Mast General Store.’ That was the 1980s, and people are still seeking that same experience.”

It’s these types of genuine, down-to-earth anecdotes that led the buyers at Mast Store to put Kromers on the shelves.

“Stormy Kromer’s got a great story,” said Moretz. “It’s authentic, and it shows we share the same values. This is a made-in-the-USA product that fits a modern need in a traditional manner. That’s what we are, too.”

Stop by, see for yourself, and spin a few stories of your own, at MastGeneralStore.com.

Featured Retailer: Duluth Pack

If you’ve never heard of Duluth Pack, it’s okay.
You’ve probably just never been outside.

If you’re not the type to venture beyond the wilds of your own backyard, it’s all right. The Duluth Pack Store can outfit you with every bit of gear you need to take on places like the Boundary Waters.

Or, shoot, you can just sit in the store and feel outdoorsy enough.

Named after its Duluth Pack, a cavernous canvas and leather camping satchel patented in 1882 and stitched in the same Duluth (MN) factory for 101 years, the store caters to hikers and campers who want the gear that will keep them alive out in the wilderness plus allow them to look good when the forest rangers finally find their bodies.

We’re kidding, of course, but Duluth Pack gear has been a symbol of north woods ruggedness as long as the north woods have been a symbol of outdoor adventure.

But let’s say you’ve never stepped further outside than Central Park. That’s okay, too. The Duluth Pack Store is now selling to places like Barney’s of New York.

“It’s weird, but we’re hip,” said Laura Duenow, Apparel and Footwear Buyer for the Duluth Pack Store. “We’ve been selling a very traditional product for a very long time, but because we’ve been able to blend modern style with traditional function, we’ve got this cool, Americana following.”

Just like, she says, Stormy Kromer.

“We’ve always carried Kromer caps,” added Duenow, “but the outdoor customer is more savvy than ever, and Stormy Kromer adapted and expanded its apparel line to fit them. When we saw that, we knew we had to sell it.”

And last year, they were the world’s second-largest seller of Kromer goods.

“We offer our customers an experience they can’t get in the big-box franchises,” added Duenow. “It’s a destination, not just an outdoor store.”

She couldn’t be more right. Duluth Pack sits in Duluth’s famous Canal Park district, which welcomes 3.5 million out-of-town visitors each year—many of whom stop at the store as a starting point for their wilderness vacation.

“We give them fashion-forward function, and Stormy Kromer understands what that’s all about. Those are the kind of brands our customers want.”

You just have to go out and get them. Or at least visit www.duluthpack.com.

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.

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.