Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Stormy Kromer Signs On To Support U.S. Men’s and Women’s Ski Jumping Teams

IRONWOOD, MI (May 21, 2013) -  Stormy Kromer is pleased to announce that they have been named the Official Lifestyle Apparel Sponsor of USA Ski Jumping and the Official Fashion Wear Supplier of Women’s Ski Jumping USA.

Stormy Kromer is a division of Jacquart Fabric Products, located in Ironwood, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, the heart of ski jumping country and home of Copper Peak, the country’s first ski flying jump.

Like the fate-filled cup of coffee and conversation that lead Stormy Kromer CEO, Bob Jacquart, to take the leap of faith and purchase (and ultimately save) the Stormy Kromer Cap Co., Jacquart took a call from friend and business colleague, Greg Windsperger, and their conversation lead to Stormy Kromer’s new sponsorship.  Over the past few decades Jacquart Fabric Products and the company Windsperger worked for, Federal Foam/Airtex Inc, had come to do business, which also brought Windsperger back to his old stomping grounds as he has been actively involved in the sport of ski jumping.  Greg jumped at Copper Peak from 1971-1976, he also competed in the 1974 World Championships, the 1976 Winter Olympics, and went on to coach the U.S. Men’s Ski Jumping Team in the ’84 and ’88 Olympic Games.  So, when there was talk amongst USA Ski Jumping delegates about investigating the opportunity of a possible future meet at Copper Peak, Greg immediately made a call to Bob to ensure a stop at Stormy Kromer was part of the Ironwood itinerary.

Upon meeting the USA Ski Jumping representatives, Bob knew immediately there was an intrinsic connection and that the stories of the Stormy Kromer caps so many have come to wear and love, particularly in winter, and the area’s ski jumping heritage belonged together. And this was before he really knew the story of the U.S. women ski jumpers, who for the first time in history will compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Which is hard to believe, because many have seen women competing in ski jumping for decades, especially in Upper Michigan, however even with a decree by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1991, committing that all future Olympic sports must be open to both genders, the ruling excluded the 16 original sports of the Olympic Winter Games, of which, ski jumping was one.  For more than a decade female ski jumpers have been fighting for the right to compete at the Olympics.

This tenacity, coupled with the sheer gumption that any person demonstrates when deciding to try the sport of ski jumping, made the Stormy Kromer sponsorship a perfect fit, much like the company’s iconic cap.

“Stormy Kromer is very excited to support the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Ski Jumping Teams,” said Bob Jacquart, CEO of Jacquart Fabric Products, makers of Stormy Kromer.  “We are a proud American-made company set in a location with a rich ski jumping history and have been making a product that has already unofficially been a part of the sport for decades.”

USA Ski Jumping’s Rex Bell was delighted to welcome Stormy Kromer to the USASJ Family. “Like all our sponsors, Stormy Kromer will play a vital role in the continued development of ski jumping in the United States. Their Stormy Kromer cap shares an historic status, used by hard-working outdoor fans for more than 100 years, which is a perfect fit for the sport of ski jumping.”

As the Official Lifestyle Sponsor, Stormy Kromer will supply members of the Men’s USA National Jumping squad with a variety of products, including their Original Stormy Kromer cap, the Night-Timer Duffle Bag and the Town Coat.

“We too are thrilled to align with Stormy Kromer and its unique and rich history in the outdoor world,” said Robbie Beck, Executive Director of Women’s Ski Jumping USA. “Our athletes are proud to wear these beautiful products and represent Stormy Kromer and the United States as they make their long-anticipated and celebratory debut in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”

The company will be providing the members of the U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping Team with items from the Ida Kromer line including the Petal Pusher cap,  the Ida Cap with Hardware, and Ida’s Walking Coat. In addition to the gear being provided to the Women’s Team, $1 from every purchase of each of the Ida Kromer items listed above will go to Women’s Ski Jumping USA, allowing anyone who wants the opportunity to be a part of their historic Olympic debut, an opportunity to support some strong women while sporting some great gear.

“Women have been ski jumping for decades, something we have seen firsthand in our own back yard,” said Gina Thorsen, Vice President of Marketing for Stormy Kromer. “To see them break new ground and prepare to compete in the 2014 Olympics is thrilling. We feel a close connection to the Team’s spirit and tenacity, similar to the spirit of Ida Kromer that has helped take our company to new heights, after all, if it wasn’t for Ida, Stormy wouldn’t have gotten his cap.”

Even with the rich history and relationship between ski jumping and Stormy Kromer, the company is in need of help hunting down historic photos of ski jumpers wearing Stormy Kromer caps. Fans willing to share any old photos will be given a free Stormy Kromer cap in exchange for their effort. The free cap is dependent upon verification that the cap in the image is an official Stormy Kromer and there is a limit of one free cap per household. To send a photo, please mail to Stormy Kromer, Attn: Ski Jump Photos, 1238 Wall Street, Ironwood, MI 49938 (please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope if image is to be returned) or email contests@stormykromer.com for more information.

The legend of Stormy Kromer began with a unique cap created in 1903 and was originally stitched by Ida Kromer, Stormy’s wife.  In 2001, Jacquart Fabric Products proudly became the Caretaker of the Legend, not only continuing to produce the iconic cap, but expanding the brand and product line to feature a wide variety of men’s and women’s clothing, outerwear and accessories to complement the popular caps.  Today, the company continues to strive to provide classic yet contemporary products sewn with passion and practicality and still proudly made in the USA for more than a century.

 

Handmade by Him: Jim Berton, the man behind the pictures.

Up next in our series of employee features is Jim Berton – our resident photography/graphics/technology expert who loves learning new skills and putting them to use at Stormy Kromer.

SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
JB: I wear a lot of hats. Really.

SK: Nice pun.
JB: Thank you. Truly, I learned to do what needs to be done. They needed a product photographer, so I’m the product photographer. I also digitize the embroidery for the logos on the custom hats and other products. I went to school for digitizing, so I’m trained in that, and I’ve got a pretty good background in graphics. I guess I’d say my day is split between embroidery, graphics and photography.

SK: How did you get the job?
JB: I was a plant manager for Modern Case Company in Bessemer, making cases for musical instruments. We had one of the first computerized cutting machines in the area, and when Bob (Jacquart, owner of Stormy Kromer) toured the plant to check out that machine, that’s when we met. When he bought his new cutting machine, he hired me to run it. He hired my wife, too.

SK: Your wife works here?
JB: She does, and we started on the same day. May 5th, eleven years ago.

SK: What have you learned in all that time?
JB: I learn something every day. I have to, or I can’t go to bed at night. Really, I’ll stay up until I learn something new. And I never tell anyone I don’t know how to do something—if they give me one day, I’ll know how to do it tomorrow.

SK: What do you think of the new lines of apparel?
JB: Things here just keep getting better and better and better. And the new gear is just a knockout. I shoot the pictures, and I say to myself, “Man, is this really made here?” I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.

SK: So you like it?
JB: We went from the “old man hat” to the “everyman hat,” and the things we’ve done since Gina (Thorsen, VP of Marketing & Sales) started, well, the sky’s the limit. As a matter of fact, my wife and I always planned to move back to Ohio someday, but because of the positive direction this company is going in, we’re going to stay up here ‘til we die.

SK: How many pieces of Kromer gear do you own?
JB: None, sorry. I’m the weird guy who wears shorts 12 months a year—even when snowblowing—so this warm clothing is just too much for me. I buy it all the time for family and friends, though.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
JB: It says it all. When I see people working here and putting out a product they’re proud to make, it just says it all.

SK: Anything else you want to say to Kromer fans?
JB: There are only two kinds of people in the world: The ones who get to work here and the ones who wished they work here!

Handmade by Him: Dan Pavlovich, dreaming of plaid.

Up next in our series of employee features is Dan Pavlovich – a longtime employee who grew up with Bob Jacquart, and now plays a key role in product design and development.

Stormy Kromer DesignSK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
DP:
Wow, what haven’t I done? I started at the front desk with Bob’s mom (Bob Jacquart, the head honcho here at Kromer). I’d sit there with a sewing machine and a telephone—greeting customers, laying out patterns, sewing and answering calls. I graduated to R&D, so now I work with the prototypes and new designs.

SK: So what sorts of things have you designed?
DP:
Oh, I’ve worked on a little bit of everything, but I did the tote bag, messenger bag, overnight bags and developed the plaids for the shirts.

SK: You came up with plaid? How do you come up with plaid?
DP:
I’ll just say you need a critical and artistic eye.

SK: How long have you worked for Bob?
DP:
I’ve been here since the old store on McLeod Avenue, which started out as Bob’s grandfather’s grocery store. It’s been 25 years for me, but I’ve known Bob since I was little. He lived one backyard away.

SK: Is that how you got the job?
DP:
Well, I went to college and got into costume design, then got out of it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to survive on that. Bob knew I could sew, though, so he hired me.

SK: Does costume design influence what you do today?
DP:
All the skills I have I learned in the theater in college. Sewing, colors, design—all of it. I did it all by hand and still do. I think that’s the best way to design—you really get a feel for what you’re making.

SK: How does it feel to know you’re helping stitch together a legend?
DP:
I really enjoy that. Everybody here has a hand in it, and no one has an ego. I’m very proud that we’re making people happy.

SK: What’s the best day you’ve had on the job?
DP:
Every day is my best day! (laughs) There’s truth in that, though. I really enjoy coming here. I won’t say that I don’t like leaving at the end of the day, but I love my job.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
DP:
It means we’re bucking the trend of making a fast buck.

SK: Anything else you’d like to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
DP:
Keep shopping! And just wait until you see the great gear that’s coming out next!

Treated Like a Person, By a Person

We get a lot of great emails, facebook posts and blog comments from our customers.  Every once in awhile, we get one so well-written and witty that it is too good not to share.  This email came from a lovely gentleman named Rich and we asked him if it would be okay if we shared it with all of you.  He was happy to oblige.

Dear Stormy Kromer,

I recently had an experience with your customer service that left me speechless.

I had a small issue with a Kromer I had recently purchased via the internet. I brewed a fresh cup of Folgers and sat down for what I was sure to come. Settled in, I called the customer service number, expecting to jump through the usual hoops…the voice prompts, the “please press 4 for customer service”…you know…the usual.

Angela, SK Customer Service
The Actual Angela

But something very odd happened, a person answered.  A person with a pulse and vocal inflection and even a name!  (Angela!)  She asked me about my issue and then said, “Let me see about this with our shipping department.”

“Here we go,” I thought, “This is where I get handed off to Muzak-Land, never again to hear a live person…my problem forever unsolved.”

And then I heard something truly startling.  I heard footsteps.  Footsteps that led me to believe that someone, probably sweet Angela, was walking somewhere.  WITH THE PHONE IN HER HAND!  Why, she was walking to the shipping department!  To solve my problem!!!!  Angela, an actual person just walked over to where the shipping takes place and just, BOOM!, fixed my problem.

I was gobsmacked.  I was not put on hold. I was not forwarded to another building or state or nation.  I was not passed up the ladder. I was not talked to by a robot.  I was treated like a, (you need to sit for this), like a real person!  By a real person!

And then it was over.  Angela and I exchanged a few kind pleasantries and it was done.  I didn’t know how to behave.  I hadn’t even touched my coffee and the problem was fixed to my great satisfaction.

Yet, I was ill at ease.  My entire world view seemed canted at an odd angle.  What could this mean?  Customer Service that actually Services Customers?  Why, it’s preposterous.  What business would be precocious enough to still do things that way?  What else will I have to rethink about my world?

And what of Angela?  I felt there was so much unsaid between us.  No verbal sparring, no sarcastic, “Well Sir…I’m sorry you feel that way.”  It was over before it began…we walked to the shipping department together, she fixed everything and we went our separate ways.

So here I am, a bubble off plumb perhaps, but truly happy with my customer service.

Thanks again, Rich for taking the time to write us!

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

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

Stormy Kromer SewerSK: 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 earbandSK: 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!

Handmade by Her: Heather Nikula, our two-needle specialist.

Stormy Kromer sewerSK: What’s your job at Stormy Kromer?
HN:
If it’s got two rows of stitches, I did it. I do the double-needle work on the button and zipper vests, the town coat, our trousers—all the pants have two-needle pockets. It makes our clothes more durable, but there’s also art in it. Double-stitching is just more decorative.

SK: Do you have to sew everything twice, then?
HN: Nope—it’s a double-needle machine. Two side-by-side needles, two spools of thread, two sewing at the same time.

SK: How long have you been stitching for Stormy Kromer?
HN: Two years. I came back to Ironwood to be with my grandma, and I needed a job. I got the job to get a paycheck, but it turned into something I love. Now they can’t get rid of me!

SK: How do you feel knowing you’re stitching together a legend?
HN:
I think about that a lot when I’m sewing—a hundred years ago, someone was doing this same thing. People still want it, and we’re making it the same way. By hand.

SK: So how many pieces of Kromer outdoor apparel do you have?
HN:
Well, when I get one, it’s one for me and one for the boyfriend. So we have a few. I’ve got caps in pink, red/black plaid, green, black, brown and partridge plaid. All Originals. Oh, and one Ida Original. Yeah. A lot.

SK: What do you think of the new lines of clothing?
HN:
I love that we’re growing and thinking abut the kinds of things people could really use when they’re out there freezing their toots off.

SK: Why is wool the fabric to work with?
HN:
It’s warmer, and that’s what we’re looking for. You buy this cap or vest or jacket to stay warm, and it does the job.

SK: What do you do when you’re not making great Kromer gear?
HN:
I like to travel, but mostly I’m here so my grandma has someone to holler to if she needs help. She’s 87, and I take care of her.

SK: Does she have a Stormy Kromer cap?
HN: Well, I bought her one, but she’s an old-style finicky lady, and she won’t put a hat on her head. So the pink one I got for her—now it’s mine.

SK: Is there anything else you want to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
HN:
This is the most comfortable thing you can wear in five-degree weather and not be bundled up like the Abominable Snowman or that kid in The Christmas Story. It’s fashionable and comfortable. I’d own every piece of it if I could!

Bob and Stormy Kromer’s Baseball Bat

Stormy Kromer BatA 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 BatYou 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 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!