Handmade by Her: Melissa Allen, making a Kromer a Kromer.

Up next in our series of employee features, meet Melissa Allen!

Stormy Kromer Sewer
SK: What’s your role at Stormy Kromer?
MA: I put the earband on the cap. It’s a big job, and I love it.

SK: What are you most proud of in your work?
MA: My favorite thing is to see people wearing our caps. That puts a smile on my face, and I think: I sewed that!

SK: So, do you have a sewing machine at home?
MA:
No, but my first job out of high school was in a sewing factory. I’ve been doing this awhile.

SK: What kind of person works at Stormy Kromer?
MA:
You’ve got to be an honest, hard-working, happy person to be here. If you don’t like your job, why do it? You’ve got to be happy with it, and I expect that all of us are.

SK: When we say “True. Since 1903.” what do you think that means?
MA:
To me, it means good clothes and outdoor gear that will last a lifetime. And it just keeps getting better and better as time goes on.

SK: What’s your favorite piece of Stormy Kromer clothing?
MA:
It’s the Original wool cap. I buy those for everyone—even one for my grandbaby who’s not here yet!—but I haven’t gotten around to picking one up for myself.

Sewing an earband
SK: What keeps you at Stormy Kromer?
MA: I like it here. I like what I’m doing. Believe it or not, I like to get up and come to work every day—I walk in with a smile on my face.

SK: What’s your best day so far?
MA: Oh, my first day. I’d been trying to get a job here for a year, and I was just so excited to start.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
MA:
When I look inside the cap and see the flag and “Made in the USA” label, I know people are getting good quality and that they’ll be proud to wear it. What we make will last their whole lives.

SK: Any other advice for the people who’ll read this?
MA: You’re gonna love Kromer gear. Go get some!

American Made Gift Ideas from Stormy Kromer Employees

Recently we asked our employees for ideas of their favorite American made products (other than Stormy Kromer, that is!).  With their input, we’ve put together a little gift guide for you to inspire your holiday shopping this season.

Sock Monkey Kit
We’ll start with some fellow Midwestern companies.  Fox River Socks, located in Osage, IA, offers a full range of warm, comfortable, functional and fun socks for all your outdoor activities.  They’ve been manufacturing these fine foot covers in the Midwest since 1900.  In addition, they are the manufacturer of the Original Rockford Red Heel Monkey Sock.  They even offer a sock monkey kit!  At just $28, the kit includes everything you need to make one sock monkey.  A great project for crafters and their family!

 

 

Duluth Pack
Over in Duluth, MN, Duluth Pack has been making rugged and functional outdoor packs since 1882.  Like Stormy Kromer caps, these packs are built to last and guaranteed for life.  While you can’t go wrong with an Original Duluth Pack, we also love that they have added a modern twist to their traditional packs, like this Scout Pack complete with laptop sleeve.

 

 

 

Burt's Bees Essentials Set
Did you know Burt’s Bees products are made in the USA?  KJ, one of our Division Managers suggested them, and on their website it states: Over 95% of our products are made right in our own manufacturing plant in Durham, NC. The rest are made by other respectable American manufacturers.  They offer a wide variety of gift sets for men, women and babies too, all at a wide range of price points.

 

Weber Q 100 Grill
What better endorsement could you ask for than this?  “I have one of these, and it’s awesome,” says Jeremy from our IT department.  The Weber Q 100 portable grill packs 8,500 BTUs in a compact grill that is perfect for your next tailgate or picnic.  And of course, it’s made in the USA.

 

Classic Chapstick
And last but not least, “America’s Favorite Lip Balm”, Chapstick, is also made in the USA.  Available virtually everywhere, it makes a great last-minute stocking stuffer.  We’ve got a few employees who swear by it up here in the cold and dry Upper Peninsula winters.

 

 

 

 

So – what would YOU add to our American made gift guide?

 

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.

Handmade by Her: Barb Wilman, Stormy Kromer Seamstress

This fall, we’d like to help you get to know the fine men and women at Stormy Kromer a little better through a series of employee interviews.  We’ll start by meeting longtime employee Barb Wilman.

Barb Wilman, Stormy Kromer Seamstress
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
BW:
Just about anything they ask. I’ve spent the last 4-5 years sewing the caps—putting in the inside labels and the piece that attaches the earband. I’ve done every job on that line.

SK: So how long have you been at SK?
BW:
I’ve worked for Bob (Jacquart, of Jacquart Fabric Products and Stormy Kromer) for over 20 years now. I enjoy it here. It’s really like my family.

SK: It actually is your family, isn’t it?
BW: Yes, extended family. My husband, Jim, has worked here 15 years.

SK: How would you describe the company to an outsider?
BW:
Oh, my gosh. I get teary-eyed because Bob has taken such good care of me. And if you give the man an honest day’s work, he’ll pay you an honest wage.

SK: What part of all this are you most proud of?
BW: It might sound kind of odd, but seven years ago, my son started work on the BNSF railroad.  Now he’s an engineer, just like Mr. Kromer himself. I’m so proud of that.

SK: What’s the toughest part of the job?
BW:
Getting up in the morning.

SK: Is there anything else you’d rather be doing, other than sleeping in?
BW:
Nope. And that’s ironic because my mother used to sew my clothes, and she’d say to me “Whoever thought you’d sew for a living.” Well, apparently I really enjoy this.

SK: What’s your favorite Kromer cap color?
BW:
People sure seem to love the partridge plaid, but I think I’ll stick with my pink one.

SK: Why does “Made in America” matter to you?
BW:
Businesses send so many jobs overseas, it’s like we’re not taking care of our own in this country. People say there aren’t jobs here, well, we’re proving them wrong.

SK: Anything else you want to tell Kromer fans?
BW:
Come on up to the U.P.—to God’s country—and take a tour. We’d be more than happy to show you how we make your Kromers.

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?

Meet the Stormy Kromer Customer Service Gals

The only thing our Customer Service folks can’t do over the phone is serve you pie and coffee.

If you’ve got concerns, questions, or simply want to order a catalog, they’re the kind of folks you want to help you out. Extra-mile kind of people. People who love to sit and share a good story.

So, who are these lovely ladies?

(From the left…)

Kirsten Dowd has been in Customer Service for just about 2 years now.  She’s the leader of this bunch and has a way with people that is practically unmatched.  You’ll also notice her modeling SK gear on our website and in our catalog.  (And her husband graces the cover of our current catalog.)

Katie Guglielmotto has a great connection to Stormy Kromer.  You see, her mom, Mona, is one of the fine ladies who hand-sews our famous hats.  Katie not only does a great job assisting customers, but she is also one of our finest factory tour-givers.  Talk about a natural storyteller…

Angela Brannigan is a new addition to the crew, giving us a hand during the busy fall/winter/holiday season. She’s jumped in so well it feels like she’s been here forever!

Lori DeRosso does double duty for us, working both in Customer Service and accounting. (She also provides administrative support to our CEO, so let’s just say she’s a busy lady!)  In addition, Lori’s daughter just started sewing on the Kromer production line.

Starr Higgins juggles multiple roles here at Stormy Kromer and does so beautifully.  Not only will you hear her voice over the phone, you will also meet her in person if you happen to stop by our factory store.  She’s the boss of our recently refurbished store and will help you find a hat in your perfect size.

Now that you’ve gotten to know our amazing customer service crew, as well as our designer, which other members of the Stormy Kromer team would you like to meet?

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!