This article appeared in the March 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
From the heart of the auto industry to a diverse array of new innovators, Michigan’s landscape is dotted by hundreds and thousands of manufacturers. The state sets a high bar when it comes to creating “cool” products, but there’s only one “Coolest Thing Made in Michigan” — it’s not from Detroit, it’s not from West Michigan; it’s far north in a city called Ironwood and built by an iconic brand called Stormy Kromer.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to be recognized by people in Michigan for our cap,” said Gina Jacquart Thorsen, president and part of the third-generation ownership of Jacquart Fabric Products Inc. (JFP), the company behind the Stormy Kromer brand. “We’ve always thought the cap represents something that resonates with people; there’s a work ethic to it and we always hear people share the stories and memories that connect with it. But to be recognized like we were — it means a lot to the whole team.”
The team behind the craftsmanship contained in those caps is the latest in a history of two companies that came together to become something even better — something even cooler.
“JFP started in 1958. It was a part-time business my father, Gina’s grandfather, started while he was working full-time as a fireman,” explained Bob Jacquart, the second-generation CEO of the company. “I took it over in 1983 and through the advice of some of our customers we modified our vision from being a custom shop to doing more production work.”
Despite the shift in approach, the mentality of a custom shop still exists at JFP. Their ability to sew just about anything; the pride of a true craftsman, allowed for an obvious eventual connection with the iconic Stormy Kromer brand.
“The story of me purchasing the Stormy Kromer brand is kind of a fun story,” recounted Jacquart. “I was in town in June 2001 and one of the local retailers in the area that I was getting to know mentioned the caps weren’t being sold anymore and he basically challenged me to bring them back. Again, the customer wanted something so…why not take a chance and see what happens.”
What happened was the resurgence of a product which carries a lot emotion to a lot of Michiganders. While it took Bob time to discover the Stormy Kromer cap represented a tradition that wove through the lifetime of people and across generations, the fact that a family company now carried its legacy just made the connection better.
“We’ve had some challenges along the way,” explained Jacquart Thorsen, who returned to Michigan in 2009 and, along with her sister Kari, joined her father in overseeing the new era of Jacquart and heading up the Stormy Kromer brand. “We’re working to tell our story in more places and continuing to broaden our product lines — we’ve brought in a ladies brand and a pet cap and we’ll be introducing a sock line this fall.”
The challenges they faced resulted in solutions from a simple mindset — listening to their customer and respecting the tradition and legacy of the products they make. Even during his father’s time, Jacquart has understood that success as a small manufacturer often comes through one-
on-one conversations and individual relationships crafted over time.
“I’ve always been a fan of It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart,” said Jacquart. “The way he influenced so many. It was never through grand symbols but through his everyday actions — it’s a reminder that success isn’t just financial, it’s about community and the legacy you leave behind.”