Since 1903, the Stormy Kromer brand has come to embody the independence, wit and grit of the upper Midwest.
Small businesses have made a profound impact on Michigan’s economy through innovation, perseverance, and resilience. With these qualities and many more, the businesses that are being celebrated in 2021 by MCSB are examples of a successful, team-focused business with a heart to continue to grow and contribute to the community. An example of this kind of business everyone should get to know is an adventure apparel shop known as Stormy Kromer.
Jacquart Fabric Products is home to the iconic Stormy Kromer wool cap that many people in the Midwest region wear. Since it began 118 years ago, Stormy Kromer has made a name for itself by consistently growing, and now features a full line of apparel to go along with the well-known cap. Located in the western reaches of the Upper Peninsula, Ironwood is the hometown and the backbone of the business.
The Jacquarts originally had a sewing company in Michigan dating back to the early 1900s. When Stormy Kromer was going to go out of business, Jacquarts decided to buy the company and move to the Upper Peninsula. Gina Jacquart Thorsen, the president of Stormy Kromer, stated that the Upper Peninsula adds to the brand. “We make cold-weather products here in a place where it can be tested and put through harsh winters. The people that work on the products know how to survive the cold and this strengthens the brand and gives it credibility.” Ironwood is the perfect place for this company to be now and as the company continues to grow.
Stormy Kromer attributes its growth to many years of consistent determination and hard work. While they have been spreading the word about this business gradually over time, a major push for the company occurred throughout 2020 as a result of the global pandemic. As everyone began masking up and adopting safety precautions to keep one another safe, people naturally started searching for ways to take on a new outdoor activity and spend more time outside. This brought a new wave of potential customers for Stormy Kromer, and its team was poised and ready to go. Gina revealed that they “had a solid website and a great network of retailers ready to serve people when they sparked an interest to be outside.” As a small business that has outlived its competitors over the years, they have learned to recognize when an opportunity presents itself.
Stormy Kromer does not only have the cold weather to credit for their success. In order to succeed, most small businesses need to leverage resources in order to overcome challenges and grow their business. Stormy Kromer worked with the Edward Lowe Foundation to get where they are now. In the upcoming years, Stormy Kromer plans to continue their hard work and build even greater awareness of their small business by expanding and creating more visuals of the products, working with new designs, and strengthening vendor relationships.
With all the steps Stormy Kromer took to get where they are now, they could not have done it without the great culture of the small business itself. “The culture is very much like the culture of the Upper Peninsula. Many people of the Upper Peninsula have grit and determination. They stick with something and do not give up on it. This is what the attitude of the employees and the culture is based around,” said Gina. When Stormy Kromer faces a problem, they are able to come together as a whole and create a solution. The people that work under Stormy Kromer are people who don’t complain and do what needs to be done. This kind of attitude is what really contributed to the success of this business.
It is not often that a business gets time to be recognized and Stormy Kromer realizes this. Being so far north and away from many manufacturers and businesses in the southern parts of the state, Gina says that it is truly an honor to be a MCSB awardee. “One of the core values is quality. We truly believe that you can be in a small town and still produce high-quality products.” Which is why, when they receive recognition like the Michigan SBDC Best Small Business award, it validates that approach and the feeling they are on track.
To learn more about how the MEDC helps Michigan small businesses, please visit www.michiganbusiness.org/pure-partnership/