Tucked away at the far western edge of the Upper Peninsula sits a company whose main product is recognizable by sight, if not by name. The Stormy Kromer has created a cultural niche, mainly in Michigan and Wisconsin.
The company has been a fixture of American headwear for over 100 years.
The first hat was made by George Kromer’s wife, Ida, who took one of her husband’s baseball caps and sewed ear flaps on.
Thus, the Kromer Cap Company was born.
In 2001, The Kromer Cap Company was purchased by Jacquart Fabric Products and production was moved to Ironwood. Although hat production started small and served supplemental purposes, interest in the unique hat soon began to grow.
“We were able to just kind of step through a marketing plan that was very folksy and down to earth and made sense in the U.P., and we’ve been able to make some very fun projects out of it,” Jacquart Fabrics CEO Bob Jacquart said.
The Stormy Kromer has evolved from a simple black hat.
Jacquart Fabric Products developed several other colors and have produced a hat for women, a warmer hat called the Ranger and other types of apparel.
“Now we’re to the point where we’re making a limited amount of coats,” Jacquart said. “We’re making vests, and bags, and purses, and scarves and we even make beer cozies now that say Stormy Kromer on it.”
“That’s just spectacular for us to see,” Jacquart said. “It’s slowly oozing out of the midwest and ending up in places like Sun Valley, Idaho which see just sold a bunch of hats. And farm and ranch stores on the west side of the Rockies are buying hats like crazy.”
It takes about thirteen steps to construct a Stormy Kromer.
The ladies are all trained to handle one specific aspect of production, but are trained in other areas as well in case they need to fill in.
Jacquart Fabric Products is excited at how communal the Stormy Kromer society is.
“It’s a product that has meaning to people and that they feel connected to,” VP of Marketing and Sales Gina Thorsen said. “We do a lot on social media and so people are constantly posting pictures of their family and their newborn babies and, you know, important moments in their lives wearing a Stormy Kromer.”
The popularity of the hat has grown to the point that JFP recently signed a sponsorship deal with the USA Ski Jumping and Women’s Ski Jumping USA teams.
“Last Spring, the men’s and women’s ski jumping teams came to visit Ironwood and started to talk to us about a possible sponsorship of the teams; particularly because it’s a winter sport, we’re a winter hat, and also because of the history of ski jumping in the area. They thought, perhaps, it would be a logical fit for us to get involved,” Thorsen said.
Although the sponsorships are only for one and two years, the folks at Jacquart expect the relationships to be long lasting.