Bob Jacquart - Jacquart Fabric Products Home of Stormy Kromer - 2022 MFG Lifetime Achievement
This article appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Bob Jacquart is being recognized with the 2022 MFG Lifetime Achievement Award not only because of his entrepreneurial skills but also for his ability to form bonds near and far, while personifying the passion and drive that embodies the Upper Peninsula’s signature character.
It all started in 1958 when Bob’s father, Firefighter Robert R. Jacquart, began a sewing business in the basement of his Ironwood home under the name Jacquart Manufacturing. By the time he was 20 years old, Bob Jacquart joined his father’s business.
The first time the younger Jacquart was behind a sewing machine with a pair of scissors, ruler and pencil, he had an epiphany: He had the ability to create things.
And so he did.
Bob Jacquart first specialized in creating boat covers but, due to his skills and connections in the community, his work grew into upholstering furniture, making backrests for a motorcycle company, creating medical device bags, gun cases, dog beds and more.
He said he believes his secret to success was simple: he showed up on time and did what he said he was going to do at the price he said it was going to be. He also continued to learn from his many amazing mentors, recognized opportunities and kept an open mind.
In the 1970s and ’80s, much of the sewing industry was going offshore but not where Jacquart is concerned.
“Somehow, way up here in the western Upper Peninsula, he managed to figure out how to not just live but grow and thrive as a cut-and-sew manufacturer in the United States, and he was able to find these niche-y, specific, unique projects that Asia couldn’t do efficiently and it made sense for a sewing manufacturer in America to do,” says his daughter, Gina Jacquart Thorsen, who is currently CEO of Stormy Kromer and what’s now known as Jacquart Fabric Products.
Then Came Stormy Kromer
One fateful day during his career, a dealer called in an order to Stormy Kromer, an iconic brand of hats, but the man who answered said that they were not making the hats anymore. By chance, two hours later that man saw Jacquart in a restaurant and told him that he “better do something about it” to keep the brand alive.
“I smiled and said, ‘Get me the number and I’ll buy the company,’” Jacquart says.
Later, Jacquart jokingly mocked himself for that but, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
“My dad just never gives up,” says Jacquart-Thorsen. “When he sets his mind to doing something, he’s going to get it done. I’ve seen that ever since I was a little girl — my whole life and then now being able to work side by side with him.”
True Talent and Character
Community Development Director for the city of Ironwood Tom Bergman said Jacquart was able to take the iconic Stormy Kromer brand and integrate it with the region it’s from. Now employing 120 people, Jacquart’s business is a staple of the Ironwood community.
“Stormy Kromer as a product really embodies what the Upper Peninsula is,” Bergman says. “It embodies perseverance and resilience and the dedication to the outdoors that really encompasses what the U.P. is, and I feel like Bob brought that to the major market.
“He brought the U.P. into the rest of the American culture in a way that I don’t think anybody else could.”
Dr. George McNulty, President of Gogebic Community College, says that Jacquart has a natural ability to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room and that Jacquart inspires him every time he meets with him.
“I believe he has a true talent that not everybody possesses,” says McNulty. “There’s a certain presentness to Bob that I greatly admire and respect.”
Through it all, Jacquart attributes much of his success to the community and his family, which includes everyone from his daughters to past employees he still connects with today.
“We have so many people in our lives that have done so many wonderful things. And that’s why, to think that this award belongs to one person, it just really doesn’t. It really is everybody that’s been part of this that helped mentor me and helped encourage me, helped teach me,” Jacquart says.
For all that he has done and all that he is, the MMA is proud to recognize Bob Jacquart with the 2022 MFG Lifetime Achievement Award.
The MFG Emerging Leader is part of the annual MFG Excellence Awards which celebrate the leaders and products that are pushing the industry forward. Learn more about the awards program and gala.