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.

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?

What We’re Thankful For, by Stormy Kromer

From the slightly silly to the serious, and in no particular order, this is what we are thankful for here at Stormy Kromer this week.

Living Legend Finalists – After reading their stories, we think you’ll be thankful for people like these outstanding citizens too.  Don’t forget to vote for your favorite.

Ida Kromer – Like most men, when Stormy needed some help, he turned to his wife.  Without her, his idea may never have turned into reality.  Now she’s finally getting her due with our expanding line of women’s products.

Sheep – Heck, without them, what would we make our legendary caps out of?

Our Employees – Without the dedicated men and women who cut, sew, package and ship our gear, Stormy Kromer Mercantile would not exist.  For that, they deserve a tip of the hat.

Our Customers & Fans – We think we’ve got the best customers in the business.  You appreciate the value of Made in the USA products, you faithfully spread the word about our gear and you share the best photos, videos and stories with us.

Snow – As much as we hate to admit it, we actually love that fluffy white stuff.  The accumulation started last week, and now we’re counting down the days until there is enough for the cross country trails, ski hills, and snowmobile trails to open.  Remember, you can now keep track of the snowfall at SK headquarters on our homepage.

From our family to yours, we’d like to wish you a safe, peaceful and most importantly, warm, Thanksgiving holiday.

What are you thankful for this week?

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!