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?

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?

 

The Making of the Petal Pusher

Of all of the new products we introduced in 2011, the Petal Pusher Cap has been the biggest hit.  In fact, we’ve sold over 5 times our initial sales projections for this product.  We’ve received rave reviews from the women who are wearing them and we’re hard at work on new color choices for 2012.

Because of the popularity of this product, we thought we’d share the quick story of how this cap came to be.  Through some previous blog posts, you’ve met Bob Jacquart, the CEO of Jacquart Fabric Products and Stormy Kromer.  And today, you’re going to learn about his wife, Denise.

For years, Denise worked in the business as well.  However, a few years ago, she became a unique kind of “CFO” – the Chief Family Officer.  Working in a family business that involves not just parents and daughters, but also cousins and uncles and spouses, well, it can sometimes be complicated.  So Denise now focuses on the family relationships, and making sure that part of the business is healthy.

She also has a keen sense for fashion and design.  A few years ago she got the idea that Stormy Kromer needed a feminine touch, and she played around with a few different ideas (see below) before stumbling on the idea of a flower.

The prototypes found their way into the back of a closet, and were forgotten about, until Bob and Denise’s daughter, Gina, joined the business and found them.  Gina and SK’s designer, Tamara, refined the design into the current product.

Why has this cap been so popular?  We think it’s because the design remains Kromer through and through (complete with functional earbands) while giving the ladies another option.  Honestly, we think Ida would be pretty proud.

Which brings us to a bigger question – what are your ideas for Stormy Kromer product variations?  Like Denise, you just might hit on the next big thing!

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!

Stormy Kromer featured in Country Living Magazine!

Over a year ago, we received a call from Country Living Magazine.  We had several discussions with them about the history of our brand and where we are today.  We had hoped they would publish an article last year, and we were pleasantly surprised when they contacted us again this summer.  After a series of phone calls and emails discussing interesting dates in the history of our iconic brand, we were so excited to see this article in the November issue of the magazine, which is on newsstands now.  With the Original Cap in Green/Black Plaid, we are proud to be their latest Made in America feature.

Thanks Country Living!