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!

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.

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.

Welcome to the Kromer Kap Kulture Klub. Well, sort of.

Although they’re a welcoming bunch of guys and there’s no secret handshake or anything, this isn’t a club—excuse me, klub—you can join. You see, you’ve got to be part of the Opatik family (or a very close friend) and you’ve got to be a Stormy Kromer fanatic.

Frank Opatik is both. His first Kromer Original Wool Cap was handed down to him by his father in 1960. (“I was the oldest, so I was first in line,” he said.) It’s the black one, he still wears it, and it’s still in its original shape. His son, Steve, wears his maternal grandfather’s cap, also black, and also over 50 years old. Visitors to the cabin wear red.

The caps are well preserved and worn with pride every year at the family’s hunting compound, a no-power, no-plumbing log cabin north of Gleason, Wisconsin, that Frank built in 1978 after being inspired—literally—by the label on Log Cabin syrup.

The cabin is where the idea for the Kulture Klub was first formed.

“Well, we were all up there at deer camp one year sitting under the gas lamps and playing cards. We were wearing our Kromers, and we realized we were part of a pretty special club,” said Frank, a retired engineer and marketing executive. “We decided to call it the Kromer Kap Kulture Klub because there’s a quite a bit of culture up there,” he added with a  laugh.

Original members of the Klub include Frank and his son, Steve; Frank’s brother-in-law, Gary Martin; Gary’s son, Bryan; and Frank’s brother, John, who’s since passed away.

Membership has now swelled to seven, and each inductee holds a official Certificate of Membership, plus honorary, non-voting stock in—yes—Kromer Kap Kulture Klub, LLC. Or is that LLK?

“My wife, Joyce, and I created the LLC as part of our estate plan, leaving the land and cabin to our kids,” added Frank. “And the ‘K’ thing? Well, that just sort of came naturally.”

Naturally. Like “bakon” on the camp menu, which also states “This menu was prepared on a Kromer Komputer, and we use a Kromer Spellchecker.”

Frank is fiercely proud of his caps (he has three, including a specially designed 25th Anniversary cap for the Klub) and of the authentic, down-to-earth culture that’s developed at the cabin.

“Our motto is: ‘Where the work ends and the fun begins.’”

And when you see them bringing in their trophy bucks or watching a Packers game (it’s the only thing they use the generator for because they don’t want to “get too civilized”), you’ll know that’s the kind of kulture you want to be part of.

Do you have any Stormy Kromer traditions that you’d like to share?