A Legendary Team

Just as the voting period for the 2013 Living Legend comes to a close, we received an email from a fan alerting us to a truly legendary story about a small-town football team, just down the road from us.

In the spirit of legendary-ness, we felt compelled to be sure all of you read it too.

Each year, Sports Illustrated does a series called, “Underdogs: Inspiring Stories in High School Football.”  Not only was Ishpeming High School (right here in the Upper Peninsula) named a finalist, they won this year’s prize.

Daniel Mears/AP

Their winning story, which you can read here, centered around Eric Dompierre, a 19-yr old student with Down’s Syndrome.  You see, Eric was the back-up kicker for the team, but because of his age, had to fight the Michigan High School Athletic Association for the right to play his senior year.  A fight he, his father and the entire Ishpeming community took on wholeheartedly, and won.

The amazing thing is, this is only a portion of the inspiring story behind this Ishpeming Hematite Football Team.  If you want to know “the rest of the story,” we encourage you to check out this wonderful blog posted yesterday on SI.com.  Trust us, you won’t regret the time you spend on it.

Are there any other legendary team stories we need to know about?  (And don’t forget to get your Stormy Kromer Living Legend votes in by 12/16.)

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.

Handmade by Her: Patti Budgick, an outerwear legend.

Stormy Kromer Patti Budgick
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
PB:
I’m the work-lead for the outerwear line. That means I do a little of everything when it comes to our vests, the Town Coat, the Mackinaw Coat and the Airman’s Jacket. I make sure the orders get done in order; I make sure the shelves are stocked; and I sew right alongside my girls.

SK: That’s all?
PB:
Almost. I’m a supervisor, so there’s management duties, too. I help employees with personal stuff, if they need it. We’re pretty close around here.

SK: So what’s Bob (Jacquart, owner) like as a person?
PB: He knows what he’s doing. He’s got a good background. He’s a nice guy, easy to talk to. Bob’s got a good company to work for—they put employees first. And taking care of your kids is very important to him, so if your kid’s sick or something, he’s very supportive.

SK: What’s the best day you’ve ever had on the job?
PB:
I’ve been here so long, I don’t know if I can remember it! Seriously, it’s just great to work here.

SK: How long?
PB: Twelve years with Bob at Jacquart Fabric Products and two years now at Stormy Kromer.

SK: What do you do when you’re not making great outdoor gear?
PB:
Well, my husband is an avid fisherman, and I’m not. So I sit in the boat with my historical romance novels.

SK: What’s your single favorite Kromer item?
PB:
Petal Pusher, hands down. My husband, Rick, wears the original and always has. But they put that flower on there, and it’s adorable!

SK: We talk about being “True. Since 1903.” What does that mean to you?
PB:
We’re true to the American way of doing things. True to the legend and what we believe a legend should be. True to the craft and to old-fashioned standards. We’re authentic in everything we do.

SK: Anything else you want to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
PB:
We’re a happy little family here, and we all work together to make sure Stormy Kromer gear is an exceptional value. We take an extreme amount of pride in our work.

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.

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.

How Does a Guy Say No To This?

Even though the wedding date’s not set yet, you can tell that Linnea Rivard and Michael Balda’s upcoming nuptials aren’t necessarily all that traditional.

For starters, the happy couple met at an online matchmaking site. They didn’t even get to go out alone on their first date (she brought a friend along, just to be sure). And after a few short months of courtship, she proposed marriage to him.

On Stormy Kromer’s Facebook page, no less.

“We met in September, and a month later he was bugging me with ‘When are you going to ask me to marry you?’” said Linnea, a bartender in Wisconsin Rapids. “When I told his mom, she looked me in the eye and said “He loves you and wants to marry you. He’s just scared to ask.”

Not too timid to take matters into her own hands, Linnea put a plan in motion.

Michael, who’s working toward his Master’s degree in Project Management, was heading to Florida for an extended stay, but before he left, Linnea made sure his favorite Kromer cap stayed home.

“It was weird, but before my trip, she wanted to know what caps I was bringing with me,” said Michael. “I’ve got 15 or so, and I did bring a couple of the cotton ones to Florida, but I couldn’t figure out why she cared. Then I saw her Facebook post.”

Posed in her boyfriend’s best Kromer Original, Linnea popped the question “Marry me?” in a picture presented for the whole world to see. And let’s just say Michael wasn’t the first to see it.

“Some other guy beat me to it,” said Michael. “One of the posts said ‘If he says no, I’m saying yes.’ Really, though, there was only one answer for me. She was wearing my favorite cap; it was awesome. I had to say yes.”

We couldn’t be happier for the Kromer-loving couple, and we’ll keep you up to date on their wedding plans. We thought you should also know, however, that they’re not the first to be wedded with our caps.

In 1946, Bernard Kolesar (you may remember him as one of our Living Legend finalists) proposed to Zella in his Stormy Kromer. She said yes, and the rest is history.

This has to be one of the best lookin’ wedding parties we’ve ever seen.

Are there other Kromer wedding stories we need to know about?

The Living Legend Tattoo

If you’ve been following ou

r posts about 2012 Living Legend Jim Dehlin, you may remember that in the story titled “A Visit From a Legend“, Jim mentioned the possibility of getting a Living Legend tattoo.

Well, in legendary fashion, he was true to his word.

This fabulous bit of art was done by Jim’s niece, a tattoo artist in the New Orleans area.  The ink is on his right bicep and we particularly like the bit he added: “It’s good to be first.”

We have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear from Jim.  Stay tuned for updates on this legendary character throughout the year.

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.

A Visit From A Legend

This past Friday, the employees at Stormy Kromer were proud to welcome a legend into their factory.  A Living Legend, actually.

Jim Dehlin and family, with Bob Jacquart

Our inaugural Living Legend winner, Jim Dehlin (along with six family members, including his wife, son and daughter) spent a good part of Friday afternoon with us.  What a treat.

The group started with a factory tour, given by our CEO, Bob Jacquart, of course.  Bob gave them the royal treatment, sharing story after story about the factory and Stormy Kromer, and introducing the crew to many of our employees.  The littlest member of the Dehlin clan even got to put eyelets into some caps!

After the tour, the group hit the retail store, putting a good dent into Jim’s $500 gift certificate.  Unsurprisingly, in legendary fashion, Jim spent most of his prize money buying caps and gear for his friends and family instead of for himself.

The visit capped off our inagural Living Legend program.  We received dozens of nominations and honored ten worthy nominees as finalists.  During the voting period, over 8500 votes were cast, with Jim emerging as our winner.  Earlier this month, we sent off our donation to Homes for Our Troops, in Jim’s honor.

Jim’s son Jesse, who nominated him, let us in on a little secret.  “I know we were supposed to have the nominee’s permission before nominating, but I didn’t know what he would say.  So I just did it.”  We sure are glad he did.

On his way out, later on Friday afternoon, Jim pulled a staff member aside.  “We’ve got to talk about some trademark issues,” he said.  “Any objections to my next tattoo using the Stormy Kromer logo, with the words ‘It’s good to be first.’?”

No problem at all, Jim.  And we couldn’t be prouder that you were first.

 

Stormy Kromer in Outside Magazine

Have you seen the February issue of Outside Magazine?  One of the cover stories this month is “63 Perfect Things.”  We’re very proud to say that the Original Stormy Kromer Cap rounds out the list at number 63.

We’d like to send our thanks to the folks over at Outside Magazine for including us in such esteemed company.  Some of our other favorites on the list include:

9. No cell service
16. Snickers
22. Riding in the back of a pickup truck
36. Scraggly, asymmetrical Christmas trees
46. The U.P.
50. Grilling in the snow

The editors say their “outdoor pleasures are a mix of the good and the guilty.”  Which begs the question: What would be on your list of perfect things?