October 25, 2011
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.
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!