Meet Living Legend Finalist Chuck Brockman

Nominated by: Gary Strobel, friend & fellow board member


In 1989, Chuck founded Save Our South Channel Lights to help restore and rebuild two range lights in Lake St. Clair, Michigan that were built in 1859. For some context, that was before Abraham Lincoln was President or the zipper was invented. These lights were keys to the development of this region. One million dollars of merchandise passed through the area each day and the lights were essential to guide ships to the St. Clair River.

Painstaking volunteer hours and much dedication have brought the lights to their existing state. The front light remains to be restored and the rear light needs its keepers dwelling rebuilt. The rear light was restored in 2005 and maintenance continues. The group of 7 of us – led by Chuck – is dedicated and devotes many personal hours to come up with ways to raise money and to keep the lights in sufficient condition to hold weddings on the rear island. Chuck is 79 and does this all of this in the name of his late wife Scotty. Save Our South Channel Lights is an all volunteer 5O1(c)3 organization – 100% of money raised goes towards the restoration efforts.

Charity: Save Our South Channel Lights

Hometown: Harsens Island, MI

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!

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.

Bob and Stormy Kromer’s Baseball Bat

Stormy Kromer Bat
A few months ago, Bob got an odd voicemail message.  The caller stated that he had a ‘ceremonial’ baseball bat that had belonged to George Kromer and was wondering if anyone here at the company had an interest in it.

Indeed we did.

As it turns out, the bat was a part of George’s estate that had wound up with his estate attorney’s family.  After some negotiations involving Stormy Kromer apparel, the bat has found its way here to SK Headquarters.

The bat, a Louisville Slugger, has an inscription that reads:
TESTIMONIAL DINNER, GEO. STORMY KROMER, NOVEMBER 5, 1954.

Stormy Kromer Bat
You can see the bat on display here at Stormy Kromer when you come for one of our free factory tours – offered Monday through Friday at 1:30 pm.

What’s a Kromerism?

If you follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, you probably have seen us use the word “Kromerism.”  So just what is it?

Simply put, a Kromerism is a comment George “Stormy” Kromer might make on the world of 2012.  A world far different than the one that caused him to invent the iconic cap.  We like to think he’d have something to say about things like smart phones, cubicles and 21st century fashion.

They started out as simple tweets (they’re the most popular thing we do on Twitter), and have now turned into graphics as well.  We may even turn a few into posters, so stay tuned.

These are a few of our current favorites.  Stay connected with us through all our social media channels to catch the new ones as they come out.

Now it’s your turn: what commentary do YOU think ol’ Stormy would make on the world today?

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.

Saturdays with Bob: One Customer at a Time

By Bob Jacquart, CEO

As I look back on my life’s journey, little did I know that the skills that I learned in my first part-time job would come full circle.  Back in the 7th grade, I put together bicycles, strollers and wagons at my Uncle King’s five-and-dime store.  My uncle encouraged me to meet and interact with the customers, even at that young age.  I quickly learned that I loved meeting new people – learning from them, hearing their stories, and helping them with whatever they needed.

As an adult, in the early days of my work at Jacquart Fabric Products, I made custom boat covers and learned to upholster furniture – two more areas in which I worked directly with the end customer.  I even began to pass my love of customer interaction on to my two daughters – they often came to work with me on Saturday mornings, where they learned to introduce themselves by looking people straight in the eye and shaking their hand.

Eventually, as JFP grew, I found myself working with the end customer less and less.  I had other things to work on – building budgets and strategic plans, developing employees and creating an infrastructure that would support the company we were building.

As these things have been set in place and our management team has expanded, however, I find myself with a little more time on my hands.  Time that I have turned back to the customer – but a new type of customer, the Stormy Kromer fan who wants to see for themselves where the caps are made and visit our Factory Store.

The factory operates Monday through Friday, and therefore our tours are offered during the week.  Our Factory Store has also followed that schedule.  Last fall I decided to open our Factory Store on Saturdays, mainly to accommodate tourists who are visiting our area on the weekend.  It proved to be a huge success.

For the most part, I am the only one working on Saturdays, and we’re open from about 9-12. The folks who come in on Saturdays tend to be very passionate about our brand and usually have great stories to share.  I honestly can’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday morning than talking about Stormy Kromer with people as excited about the brand as I am!

As soon as the weather warms up, however, Saturdays will be cycling days for me and we’ll have someone else staffing the store.  Don’t worry though, the cycling season is pretty short and come fall, I plan to be back.

Come to think of it…this may be a glimpse of my retirement job.  Maybe a new store with a coffee shop, Stormy Kromer products and free stories to all who want to hear them.  Sounds pretty good to me.

Caretakers of the Stormy Kromer Legend

By Bob Jacquart, CEO

9 years and 9 months ago, I sat in a local coffee shop and overheard that the Kromer Cap Company was about to discontinue production of its distinctive wool cap.  As a lifelong resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a third generation Kromer-wearer (not to mention the owner of a sewing factory) I knew there was something about this quirky cap that had to be saved.  And about a month later, my company Jacquart Fabric Products, owned the rights to the cap and the name.

I was an expert in sewing and manufacturing, and not in sales and marketing.  And now, I had a brand to sell!  I decided to seek out some experts in the marketing field, and I made a visit to an advertising agency in Milwaukee – one with experience in the outdoor industry.  I brought with me some old photos of family and friends wearing the cap (you can see a few here), and the critical bit of knowledge that George’s nickname was “Stormy” – a fact that the Kromer Cap folks had not really capitalized on.  They looked at me and said, “You really have no idea what you have here.”

I left that meeting full of excitement for the potential of Stormy Kromer.  We made some

immediate changes to the cap – including the now unmistakable signature and date to the back of the cap.  We took a year off from actively selling the cap and perfected production.  We added new colors.  And soon, we slowly began adding new products under the SK name.

A decade later, the brand now includes over a dozen cap styles in a multitude of colors that are worn by men and women, young and old, hunters and businessmen.  In a few weeks, a host of new caps, apparel items and accessories will be launched on our site and in our dealers around the country.

108 years ago, George and Ida unknowingly created a legend by stitching that iconic earband to a wool baseball cap.  We now carry the significant responsibility of being caretakers of that legend – making sure everything we do would make George and Ida proud.  And in fact, you are a caretaker of the legend too, from the moment you put that Stormy or Ida Kromer cap on your head.

We’ve launched this blog as yet another way to connect with you, our loyal customers.  We hope you enjoy hearing a little more about the company, the products, and the stories from all over the globe, that together make Stormy Kromer the legend it is today.