Handmade by Him: Jim Berton, the man behind the pictures.

Up next in our series of employee features is Jim Berton – our resident photography/graphics/technology expert who loves learning new skills and putting them to use at Stormy Kromer.

SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
JB: I wear a lot of hats. Really.

SK: Nice pun.
JB: Thank you. Truly, I learned to do what needs to be done. They needed a product photographer, so I’m the product photographer. I also digitize the embroidery for the logos on the custom hats and other products. I went to school for digitizing, so I’m trained in that, and I’ve got a pretty good background in graphics. I guess I’d say my day is split between embroidery, graphics and photography.

SK: How did you get the job?
JB: I was a plant manager for Modern Case Company in Bessemer, making cases for musical instruments. We had one of the first computerized cutting machines in the area, and when Bob (Jacquart, owner of Stormy Kromer) toured the plant to check out that machine, that’s when we met. When he bought his new cutting machine, he hired me to run it. He hired my wife, too.

SK: Your wife works here?
JB: She does, and we started on the same day. May 5th, eleven years ago.

SK: What have you learned in all that time?
JB: I learn something every day. I have to, or I can’t go to bed at night. Really, I’ll stay up until I learn something new. And I never tell anyone I don’t know how to do something—if they give me one day, I’ll know how to do it tomorrow.

SK: What do you think of the new lines of apparel?
JB: Things here just keep getting better and better and better. And the new gear is just a knockout. I shoot the pictures, and I say to myself, “Man, is this really made here?” I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.

SK: So you like it?
JB: We went from the “old man hat” to the “everyman hat,” and the things we’ve done since Gina (Thorsen, VP of Marketing & Sales) started, well, the sky’s the limit. As a matter of fact, my wife and I always planned to move back to Ohio someday, but because of the positive direction this company is going in, we’re going to stay up here ‘til we die.

SK: How many pieces of Kromer gear do you own?
JB: None, sorry. I’m the weird guy who wears shorts 12 months a year—even when snowblowing—so this warm clothing is just too much for me. I buy it all the time for family and friends, though.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
JB: It says it all. When I see people working here and putting out a product they’re proud to make, it just says it all.

SK: Anything else you want to say to Kromer fans?
JB: There are only two kinds of people in the world: The ones who get to work here and the ones who wished they work here!

A short story of how a Stormy Kromer saved a life.

Hats off to Phil Beatty. No, wait—hats on. Definitely on.
A short story of how a Stormy Kromer saved a life.

Well, this is a first. Even for us. We’ve had people get married in their Kromer caps. We’ve had people get buried in their Kromer caps. But we’ve never had a cap save someone’s life.

Until Phil Beatty went for a drive in Findlay, Ohio, on January 24th.

Phil is a Federal meat inspector, so he covers a lot of ground in and around Hancock County. And on this snowy morning, he was on his route when a snowplow snagged a small but heavy road reflector and flung it through the windshield of his van.

It was just one those things: unfortunately timed and uncannily accurate. Phil was struck from chin to forehead by the 10-pound projectile. It split his skull, caved his sinus cavity, and poked right through into his frontal lobe above the eyebrow. It also sent him into a two-week coma.

It didn’t, however, do all the damage it could have done.

The thick brim on Phil’s olive-colored Original
(the one he wears for “dress,” as opposed to the Rancher he wears for work at home)
was just enough to stop the reflector
from causing a mortal wound.

According to Phil’s friend, Dave Rupple, “If that puncture had gone any deeper, it would’ve killed him. The bill on his Kromer saved him, I’m sure of it.”

After a drugged and difficult month in the hospital, then an intensive, six-hour-per-day therapy schedule at Ohio State University, Phil is now doing well in outpatient therapy. He’s walking, talking and thinking about retiring.

That sounds like a pretty good plan to us, Phil, and we humbly tip our caps in your honor. We’re proud you wear a Kromer, and we’re happy to hear you’re doing well.

The first day of spring (theoretically)

According to my calendar, it’s the first day of spring.

According to this photo, it is not.

This photo was taken just minutes ago looking out one of the windows in our breakroom. That’s snow you see, built up and blocking most of the window.  To be fair, some of it is from drifts and some may be from the last time we shoveled the roof, but nevertheless, there is that much snow piled up on the side of our building.  On March 20.

Here’s a few more photos I snapped this afternoon:

When you live in an area called Big Snow Country and work for a company like Stormy Kromer, you end up having very mixed feelings about snow in March.

  • Positive:  People still need to buy warm winter clothing this late in the season, which is great for sales!
  • Negative:  At this point, we’re all kind of sick of wearing our warm winter clothing. Except our Kromers, of course (we’re never sick of them), but we would be okay with switching to a lighter version, such as the Waxed Cotton or Field Cap.  We’re definitely ready to put the Ranchers away for a few months.
  • Positive: We can still participate in fun, cold-weather activities such as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and snowmobiling.
  • Negative:  We still have to participate in not-so-fun cold-weather activities such as shoveling and plowing.
  • Positive: When the sun shines and sparkles on the white snow, it’s like living in a snow globe.  It’s beautiful.
  • Negative:  When the sun does make it’s way out from behind the near-constant cloud cover, it’s shining on the March variety of snow – the dirty, muddy variety.

All kidding aside, we do love winter.  We wouldn’t be who we are without it.  And so, with the official first day of spring, at least theoretically we bid a fond farewell to our favorite season.

So, what do you think about this year’s lingering winter?

Handmade by Him: Dan Pavlovich, dreaming of plaid.

Up next in our series of employee features is Dan Pavlovich – a longtime employee who grew up with Bob Jacquart, and now plays a key role in product design and development.

Stormy Kromer Design
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
DP:
Wow, what haven’t I done? I started at the front desk with Bob’s mom (Bob Jacquart, the head honcho here at Kromer). I’d sit there with a sewing machine and a telephone—greeting customers, laying out patterns, sewing and answering calls. I graduated to R&D, so now I work with the prototypes and new designs.

SK: So what sorts of things have you designed?
DP:
Oh, I’ve worked on a little bit of everything, but I did the tote bag, messenger bag, overnight bags and developed the plaids for the shirts.

SK: You came up with plaid? How do you come up with plaid?
DP:
I’ll just say you need a critical and artistic eye.

SK: How long have you worked for Bob?
DP:
I’ve been here since the old store on McLeod Avenue, which started out as Bob’s grandfather’s grocery store. It’s been 25 years for me, but I’ve known Bob since I was little. He lived one backyard away.

SK: Is that how you got the job?
DP:
Well, I went to college and got into costume design, then got out of it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to survive on that. Bob knew I could sew, though, so he hired me.

SK: Does costume design influence what you do today?
DP:
All the skills I have I learned in the theater in college. Sewing, colors, design—all of it. I did it all by hand and still do. I think that’s the best way to design—you really get a feel for what you’re making.

SK: How does it feel to know you’re helping stitch together a legend?
DP:
I really enjoy that. Everybody here has a hand in it, and no one has an ego. I’m very proud that we’re making people happy.

SK: What’s the best day you’ve had on the job?
DP:
Every day is my best day! (laughs) There’s truth in that, though. I really enjoy coming here. I won’t say that I don’t like leaving at the end of the day, but I love my job.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
DP:
It means we’re bucking the trend of making a fast buck.

SK: Anything else you’d like to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
DP:
Keep shopping! And just wait until you see the great gear that’s coming out next!

Treated Like a Person, By a Person

We get a lot of great emails, facebook posts and blog comments from our customers.  Every once in awhile, we get one so well-written and witty that it is too good not to share.  This email came from a lovely gentleman named Rich and we asked him if it would be okay if we shared it with all of you.  He was happy to oblige.

Dear Stormy Kromer,

I recently had an experience with your customer service that left me speechless.

I had a small issue with a Kromer I had recently purchased via the internet. I brewed a fresh cup of Folgers and sat down for what I was sure to come. Settled in, I called the customer service number, expecting to jump through the usual hoops…the voice prompts, the “please press 4 for customer service”…you know…the usual.

Angela, SK Customer Service

The Actual Angela

But something very odd happened, a person answered.  A person with a pulse and vocal inflection and even a name!  (Angela!)  She asked me about my issue and then said, “Let me see about this with our shipping department.”

“Here we go,” I thought, “This is where I get handed off to Muzak-Land, never again to hear a live person…my problem forever unsolved.”

And then I heard something truly startling.  I heard footsteps.  Footsteps that led me to believe that someone, probably sweet Angela, was walking somewhere.  WITH THE PHONE IN HER HAND!  Why, she was walking to the shipping department!  To solve my problem!!!!  Angela, an actual person just walked over to where the shipping takes place and just, BOOM!, fixed my problem.

I was gobsmacked.  I was not put on hold. I was not forwarded to another building or state or nation.  I was not passed up the ladder. I was not talked to by a robot.  I was treated like a, (you need to sit for this), like a real person!  By a real person!

And then it was over.  Angela and I exchanged a few kind pleasantries and it was done.  I didn’t know how to behave.  I hadn’t even touched my coffee and the problem was fixed to my great satisfaction.

Yet, I was ill at ease.  My entire world view seemed canted at an odd angle.  What could this mean?  Customer Service that actually Services Customers?  Why, it’s preposterous.  What business would be precocious enough to still do things that way?  What else will I have to rethink about my world?

And what of Angela?  I felt there was so much unsaid between us.  No verbal sparring, no sarcastic, “Well Sir…I’m sorry you feel that way.”  It was over before it began…we walked to the shipping department together, she fixed everything and we went our separate ways.

So here I am, a bubble off plumb perhaps, but truly happy with my customer service.

Thanks again, Rich for taking the time to write us!

Living Legend Wrap-Up

Well, the month of January is over, and so officially is this year’s Living Legend program.  Once again, you were extremely generous with your support of the program through your January shopping, and we will be sending our donation check off to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital next week.

Living Legend
The staff here at Stormy Kromer has really enjoyed getting to know Laura Mae Beaubien.  So did Leslie Pugmire Hole, reporter at the Redmond Spokesman, a central Oregon newspaper.  Her interview with Laura and family resulted in a few wonderful quotes that we’d like to share.

Leslie quotes Laura’s son Bob, who first considered nominating his father Harold.

“I started thinking about what had made my Dad strong and I realized it was my mother.  She was always in his corner, she went to bat for him all the time.  A 60-year marriage?  People just don’t do that anymore.”

Laura continues to be humbled, and even a bit embarrassed about all the attention she’s received as our Living Legend, but still hopes her story is inspiring, even though (as she told us when she won), she didn’t win a war or anything.

“Families need to know there are good, one-day-at-a-time people still out there”, Laura said.

Yes, we sure do.  And thanks Laura, for the legendary reminder.

So Many Hats

Congratulations to this year’s Living Legend, Laura Mae Beaubien!  In case you missed it, here is the nomination her son sent to us which earned her this honor.

By: Robert Beaubien, Son

living legend
Laura Mae Beaubien is my father’s hidden strength.  Married at 19 years old, and for over 60 years, the two of them built a bond that could only be broken by the vow, “till death do we part.”

My stay-at-home mother attended to the household and raising of six children – yes six kids!  I believe there’s nothing stronger than the love a Mother has for her children.  She had so many hats she had to wear.

If one of us scraped our knee, she was there as the “Nurse” to patch us up and mother away our tears, always followed with a kiss that made it better.  She would take all of us to the A&P to go shopping with a bandana covering her curlers, the “Beauty Queen” to us.  As a “Financial Planner,” Mom saved S&H Green and Gold Bell stamps to get something free.  She could get all of us ready for church in our best Sunday clothes faster than a “Pageant Coordinator.”

I learned that when I was called, and that call included my middle name, I was in for it, as mom the “Sheriff” taught me.  We had to make our beds, pick up our clothes, feed the dog and other chores, thanks to mom the “Warden.”  My Mother the “Teacher” taught us responsibility.  She taught us to say ‘yes please,’ ‘no thank you,’ and to show respect .  Her “Dale Evans” hat was earned as we moved from our beloved Michigan to an Oregon cattle ranch.  She learned how to ride a horse, brand, and vaccinate cattle.  As the “Chef,” she maximized menus that would feed us and the branding/buckaroo crew for days.

With all these hats, she found time for my Dad as a loving, caring soulmate for life.  Now that we have our own lives, Mom and Dad were free to do the things they put off in their youth in order to raise us as a family believing in our faith, having respect of others, and doing what is right.

This free time as “Vacationers” was cut short as my Dad was told he had cancer.  Wearing this “Caregiver” hat, my mother has strengths I’ll never be able to describe, as she was a devoted companion till the end, remaining strong for us kids.  Their last long trip together – with mom as the “Navigator” – wasn’t to Hawaii, Miami, or Southern California, it was home to Michigan, where they visited family and friends.  They made new friends like Bob Jacquart, as they visited one of Michigan’s landmarks, the Stormy Kromer factory.

With a birthday on Christmas eve, my Mom will be 80 but not alone, as she will share in the celebration of life with her “Walton “-like family of Beaubien’s, driving from all over the state of Oregon, to be with her on this Blessed holiday and birthday.  My Mother made her life in a world that said ‘they were to young’ and lasted far beyond today’s marriages, raised a family, taught us new lessons and reminded us of the ones we let slide.  I nominate my Mother Laura Mae Beaubien because she would be a superior role model and a person to aspire and emulate her life’s values of a mother’s love.