Handmade by Her: Patti Budgick, an outerwear legend.

Stormy Kromer Patti BudgickSK: 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.

Inspected by Her: Eagle-Eye Jackson, also known as Lynn.

Lynn Jackson Stormy KromerSK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
LJ:
I’m one of three inspectors, and I make sure every cap that goes out is perfect. All the threads have to be cut off, the earband has to be straight, the monogramming needs to be good, no skipped stitches. Everything. On every cap.

SK: So how many caps is that for you?
LJ:
Well, in five years as an inspector (she’s been with the company for seven), that makes over half a million caps. Wow. I guess that’s why they call me “Eagle-Eye.”

SK: What’s the best day you’ve ever had on the job?
LJ:
We hit 612 caps in one day and every single one was perfect—not even a string to snip off.

SK: What’s the strangest day?
LJ: When nothing goes right. But, you know, that doesn’t happen too often around here.

Inspecting Stormy Kromer CapsSK: How does it feel to know you’re stitching together a legend?
LJ:
I feel like a movie star. I love it. I’ve already got my picture in the newspaper—me inspecting a cap. Got it up in my living room. I’m proud. I’m the one who gets to inspect and help make that cap. It says we’re doing a good job, you know?

SK: Absolutely. It says a lot about your standards.
LJ:
Yes. It’s gotta be 100%. There can’t be anything wrong with any of the gear that goes out our doors. So I look at it like I’m buying it. You don’t want a thread hanging off that you pull and it unravels. That’s not Stormy Kromer. No, it’s gotta be perfect.

SK: What does “made in America” mean to you?
LJ:
We’re the only sewing company around anymore. We love our jobs. We’re proud of this. And here, you get something sewn to perfection.

SK: Anything you else you want to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
LJ:
When you buy a cap, you know that Eagle-Eye has looked at it!

Featured Stormy Kromer Retailer: Alice’s Wonderland

Stormy Kromer Dealer Alice's Wonderland

We’re about as far from the mall as you can get.

You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person to shop at Alice’s Wonderland, but you do have to travel through a good deal of rural Pennsylvania countryside to get there. And when you’ve gone far enough to think you’ve gone too far, keep driving. You’re almost there.

You see, when you look at it the way the Karpiak family does (these are the fine folks who’ve run Alice’s for four generations now), you have to ask yourself: Where else would you put an outdoor store? In town?

The Karpiaks have a keen sense for what (and where) their store should be. Take Grandpa Paul, for example. When he bought the place in 1940 and named it after his wife, Alice, it was a restaurant. But because farm families didn’t tend to dine out all that often—and they did ask Paul to pick up a shirt or two when he went into the city for supplies—he decided to shift the focus of the family business to clothes and other outdoor gear.

“If it didn’t have a purpose, it went away,” said PJ Karpiak, Paul’s grandson and co-owner of the store. “That’s how Grandpa took care of things, and that’s pretty much how we still run the show today. We sell products that solve people’s problems, and if we don’t believe in the clothes or coats or boots or caps, we won’t put them on our shelves.”

Sometimes that means they don’t stock the latest fads, but that’s just what makes Alice’s Wonderland so popular.

“Our customers are the kind of people who spend their lives outside,” added Karpiak, “and they’re not going to come back if you sell them something that doesn’t stand up to their lifestyle.”

This philosophy stems from a belief in serving the customer the way shopkeepers used to. Because, as the Karpiaks say, “You can buy anything you want on the internet (at Alice’s website, in fact) but you visit the shop for a reason. To be helped.”

This philosophy is also the reason Alice’s now sells Stormy Kromer wool caps and clothes.

“Kromer fits us perfectly. It’s a great product with a great history, and when people say ‘You can’t find anything good that’s made in the USA,’ this is what I show them.”

And when you find our way out to Alice’s Wonderland, you’ll know the trip was worth it.

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 SeamstressSK: 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.