Month / January, 2014

Chapman Manufacturing

Chapman ratchets

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

When I started about four years ago as an assistant to the owner, the press that stamped our cases was down and had been for a few weeks. Our customers, both individuals and large companies, were very patient and willing to wait for several months for us to make ratchets and ship their orders. It struck me that even in the age of instant gratification, our tools were worth the wait.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this?

I’ve been in manufacturing my whole life, everything from printing to radiators to taps and dies. It’s gratifying to work in a company that uses quality USA made materials instead of undercutting US manufacturers by using foreign materials. As I see it, all of us USA manufacturers are “in it together” in this global economy.

Tracy with Jay Leno

Car aficionado Jay Leno talking with CEO, Tracy Camassar, about Chapman Tools

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

Our tools were invented by John Chapman in 1936, right around the corner from where our shop is now. Our tools have always bore his name, which is now synonymous with quality, precision tools that are great in tight spaces.

What is the inspiration for your style and design?

Though we’ve added more screwdriver bits, are tools are essentially the same design since 1936. The style of our tools, website and print materials are inspired by products; geometric with high attention to detail and a little retro.

Yellow Tool Box

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design? / Where do you source your materials?

All of our materials used in our tools are quality products Made in the USA. We use USA tool steel, USA stainless steel and USA plastics, the way it’s been since 1936. We also try to source USA products used around the shop and in the office, which are sometimes difficult to find but worth the time and effort to support other manufacturers like us.

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

My favorite part of the process is developing new products that our customers get excited about. Many of the new tools we’ve invented we originally created for ourselves in the shop, tested for a while, and we determined that our customers would find the tools handy too! For example, we started making our “spinner,” a low profile hand tightener, to reach some impossible screws on one of our machines.

The Chapman Mfg. Family

 What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

We have a small, tight knit shop with less than 20 employees ranging from college students to octogenarians. Though we encourage working together and everyone is trained on a couple machines and office procedures, I love to see how people pitch in when we need to get a big order out or work on a special project. In some companies colleagues are willing to work with you, but not put their work on hold to help you out of a jam. Here everyone is more than willing to lend a hand immediately. To me, that really shows the quality of the relationships here at Chapman.

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

I wish I had known how many hours of work I would have to put in, and how gratifying it is now that we’re growing. I wish I had known how fun it is to meet and talk with customers, many with old red case kits they purchased from us in the 1980’s and before.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

Simply treat others as you would want to be treated, and that includes team members, customers, employees and everyone from our competitors to the man who plows the snow. Everyone deserves to be treated kindly. (See Editor’s Note below)

Kind People Treating People Kindly

What is your secret to success?

Definitely our quality tools and customer service at a reasonable price. Almost daily someone calls to tell as that they’ve inherited our tools from their grandpa, the tools still work perfectly but over the years a couple parts are missing. We keep open stock on all parts, so they’re delighted to update their kits. After a couple months go by, the customer calls back to order new tool kit!

 What advice would you give to others starting out?

Start slow and steady and develop your products so they sell themselves!

What has been your most cherished milestone so far?

To be able to give back to the community by offering a local high school student a scholarship. Also to donate tool kits for raffles that support disabled veterans and rescue more abused dogs like our beloved Savannah, who hangs out in the office with us all day.

What’s next?

We’re expanding our product line into security bits, low profile bits, and adding related tools.

Why is manufacturing in the U.S. important to you?

Manufacturing in the U.S. is important to us because it supports our community with employment, our state and country with tax revenue, and the world with top quality tools. When you buy Chapman tools, you’re supporting many other US manufacturers and services providers because we only purchase American made raw materials. As we see it,  American businesses are all in it together!

Chapman Mfg. Co
471 New Haven Road
Durham, CT 06422


Editor’s Note: Tracy Camassar’s response that “everyone deserves to be treated kindly” extends that belief to four-legged friends. Here is a side story about their mascot Savannah from son, Joel Camassar.


Savannah was pulled off death row at a Georgia shelter when they discovered she was pregnant. A Connecticut dog rescue called Running For Rescues had her driven up to Connecticut and fostered at my friend’s house with her 7 puppies. Once the puppies got big enough, everyone was adopted out to local homes and I took Savannah. When I got her, she was still very thin from being pregnant and previously emaciated. It was clear that prior to being picked up by the shelter in Georgia she was abused horribly, possibly from a dog fighting ring. She has scars and when you went to pet her she would shake and was literally paralyzed with fear. Her bed is in the office, so everyone that works here would come in and pet her, talk to her and feed her treats, including our UPS driver and several other delivery people. That was about two years ago and since then she has come out of her shell. She’s kind of our mascot, and she’s been awarded the title of “Top Dog” and is in charge of employee and visitor welcoming.


























Stormy Kromer

Stormy Kromer Hats

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

Sewing manufacturing is not a growing industry in the United States, in part because the skill is not an overly abundant trade in the U.S.  However, it is a skill that Bob Jacquart has had the majority of his life, quite simply because it was in his blood and his family’s line of work. From an early age, while working with his father, Bob was already looking at additional opportunities to grow the business. Fast forward to 2001, when upon sitting down to a cup of coffee, the conversation that occurred changed the course of his business, and subsequently his life.

He learned of the imminent demise of the Stormy Kromer cap and decided to make a call. Initially, Bob thought he would try to produce enough caps that would mean he wouldn’t have to do any seasonal layoffs and could provide year round employment and security to a small number of employees. However, by honoring the heritage of the Stormy Kromer brand as well as his family’s sewing manufacturing business, he wrote a new chapter in the history of Stormy Kromer.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this?

This answer is a carryover from the answer above. Bob Jacquart didn’t set out to be the owner of Stormy Kromer, but his passion for business and growth has always been there. He certainly saw potential in a brand and product that was basically on the brink of extinction, but if you asked him if he knew he always wanted to own Stormy Kromer, no, yet, he cannot imagine not being the “Caretaker of the Legend” that is Stormy Kromer.

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

Stormy's StoryGeorge “Stormy” Kromer was a real guy – a semi-pro baseball player and railroad engineer. Not the kind of guy you’d expect to start a clothing company, in other words, but one who happened to create a cap that became known for long-comfort and the ability to stay snug, even in the fiercest winds.

Mr. Kromer, known as “Stormy” to the folks who knew his temper, was born in 1876 in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. He grew up with baseball and would eventually play on nearly 30 semi-pro teams throughout the Midwest. He might have continued to play that field, too, but he met Ida, and before Ida’s father would allow her hand in marriage, our ballplayer needed to find real work.

That meant the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad and long, cold trips across the plains. Stormy was an engineer, and to see where he was headed, he had to stick his head out the window – into the wind. Mother Nature stole his cap more than once, and as the story goes, he set out to get her back.

In 1903, he asked Ida (now his wife and an excellent seamstress) to modify an old baseball cap to help keep it on in windy weather. The all-cloth cap with the soft, canvas visor was a departure from the traditional fedoras of the day, but it was more comfortable and because of its six-panel fit, it stayed put.

In 2001, when Bob purchased the rights to produce the cap, the company was called the Kromer Cap Company and they made other caps (mainly welding caps), so naming it Stormy Kromer just made sense. The nickname was a perfect fit for a cold weather cap and a company based in the Upper Midwest, it also provided separation from the Kromer Cap Company that was still in existence.

The Cap

What is the inspiration for your style and design?

The caps are still based on the original design from 1903, the styles, patterns and color options have changed and evolved, but the cap endures because of a basic functionality, which is defying cold and wind and keeping wearers warm. Everything we design is based on being functional and fashionable, there must be a level of authenticity that Stormy and Ida would be proud of, yet, we work to make sure it is also a modern extension of the brand, using classic features and materials, but modern details. Our other goal is versatility that our products and designs can work in the woods or the streets of a bustling metropolis.

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design?

• Wool – It is nature’s original performance fabric. It’s made a resurgence of sorts, with people realizing that it’s not all itchy, but we’ve known that all along. It is warm, breathable and absorbs moisture.

We use 100% and 80/20 wool/nylon. Nylon gives added strength to the wool.

• We have also expanded with some products that are waxed cotton. It is water resistance and adds a hearty and rugged look.

Where do you source your materials?

It is a combination of domestically and internationally. Sourcing is a combination of factors, including: where we can find the right combination of quality, price and lead time.

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

Designing new plaid patterns. Our customers don’t typically realize the process that goes into creating a new plaid and that we design them. Each year, we share this process with them through our blog and social media outlets, we always get great feedback, which often includes names for the new patterns.

We also love seeing the first prototype of something, when it becomes a reality and leaves the pages to become something tangible to touch and try that is always exciting.

Stormy Shirts

What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

We are based in a town of 5,000 people, so if we were not a close knit company, we would be doing something wrong. Our employees are a part of the Stormy Kromer family and you can see it in the work that they do and the level of quality they bring to every step of the production process. There is pride packed in every product that leaves our warehouse and it is comprised of a group of genuine, passionate and darn good people, who every day strive to provide products produced with passion and pride.

Stormy Hat & Hands

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

To never underestimate the potential. It’s hard not to be tempered by all the realities that come with being in and doing business, but if you don’t believe, who will? Work hard; don’t let your spirit be dashed because dreaming big is important.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

I look at this journey as an endless set of stairs. Take it one step at a time, even if you only move up one step, you are still climbing and headed up instead of jumping ahead and actually moving backwards because of setbacks. Keep looking at where you are headed and keep climbing.

What is your secret to success?

Get lucky enough to passionately love your work.

Cutting Fabric

What advice would you give to others starting out?

Go slow and ask a lot of questions from others who know more than you. If you don’t let your pride get in the way, there is a lot of help out there, but you have to be willing to ask and to take it. Others will help you and in general people wish to see others succeed, not fail, but is in your approach. I continue to look for others who can offer me advice and help me grow – personally and professionally.

What has been your most cherished milestone so far?

Buying Stormy Kromer, because it has given me the opportunity to work with both of my daughters, and I guess also going to work with my father, because had I not joined our family business, I’m not sure that I would be in charge of Stormy Kromer.

What’s next?

What’s not?

Certainly growth and expansion. To date, we have not been limited by our location or our US-based manufacturing, in an industry that is consistently outsourced. There are more potential than limits for Stormy Kromer.

Stormy tees

Why is manufacturing in the U.S. important to you?

When Bob Jacquart bought the company in 2001, he likes to say, he became the “Caretaker of the Legend.” That legend is Stormy Kromer and in continuing and honoring that legend, an important part of the legacy is manufacturing the products in the USA (and ideally in a place that still has winter). Quite simply, it matters to our customers, it is part of continuing what George and Ida started more than 100 years ago and it is symbolic of the hard-working folk who proudly purchase and wear Stormy Kromer products. Stormy Kromer products are produced in a town of 5,000 people, with an average temperature of 39 degrees, there are two things we know a lot about – how to work hard and overcome challenges and how important it is to have a hat you can rely on.

Stormy Kromer


Stormy Kromer Mercantile, USA
1238 Wall Street
Ironwood, MI 49938
Telephone: 888.455.2253









Rogue Industries

rogue industries

“There’s a pride of place that Mainers have, and for good reason. We know our state is something special. Our natural environment has been inspiring creative types for years. Longfellow and Thoreau, Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth… Our environment is our patrimony, and we try to take good care of it.”  ~ Wells Lyons

Where are you from, what are your roots, and how did these places cultivate an idea that led you to where you are today?

I was born in Portland, Maine, a fifth-generation Mainer. Growing up I spent my summers way up the coast in Lubec, the easternmost town in the U.S. It’s the type of small town where time just stopped about 50 years ago. There’s no Internet, no cell phone reception. This part of Maine is modest houses and hard-working people, steeped in frequent rains and blankets of fog. There’s an abundance of nature – it’s not uncommon to encounter seals, bald eagles and loons all in the same day. My family’s place is a little cabin surrounded by pine trees, it was built by my grandfather. There’s a steep path leading to a stony beach. It feels like nowhere else.

There’s a pride of place that Mainers have, and for good reason. We know our state is something special. Our natural environment has been inspiring creative types for years. Longfellow and Thoreau, Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth… Our environment is our patrimony, and we try to take good care of it. I think our cultural legacy is one of reserved self-sufficiency and a love of Yankee ingenuity – a sort of practical creativity. I think this comes through in our products. Designed to last, well-made, reasonably priced.


What’s a good synopsis, what is Rogue Industries all about?

At Rogue Industries we craft well-made, innovative accessories. We don’t aim for trends, but rather utility and understated style – wallets that fit your front pocket comfortably, shave kits that always survive the trip, and journals hand-stitched to hold your thoughts and musings.

We use unique and custom tanned leathers to set our products apart, sourced from all over the continent– the Horween tannery in Chicago, and bison from the American West. Our ‘Made in Maine’ collection builds upon Maine’s history as a center of leatherworking. We’re always striving to improve upon what we’ve built.


Is manufacturing in the US a major priority? Tell us a bit more about how you feel regarding the sacrifices and rewards of making goods in the United States.

We’re a small, family-owned business. We don’t have quarterly earnings reports or a need to increase short-term profits to keep shareholders happy. We’re accountable to our workers, our customers and ourselves, not to shareholders – and that allows us to be the company we want to be.

Our Made in Maine collection is something we’re incredibly proud to offer. By manufacturing here in our home state, we’re able to provide good paying jobs to our neighbors at a time when our economy still isn’t working for most people. And by manufacturing locally we’re able to closely supervise every aspect of the manufacturing process, and can make quick changes to our designs. We can get prototypes to buyers in days, not weeks.

At the same time, not all of our products are made in Maine. We let our customers make the choice – do they want to pay a little more for a locally made product, or do they need to buy the most affordable wallet we have? We want our products to be accessible to consumers across all income levels.


Why is it important for you to dedicate your business to be an American manufacturer?

For us the major factors are quality, the speed of turnaround, and the ability to provide good paying jobs in our community. Millions of Americans are out of work. Buying American made products is one of the best ways we can get our economy going again. When we buy local we keep dollars in our communities.

What are your personal thoughts on the importance of buying American made products?

Buying American made products keeps dollars in our economy, rather than flowing beyond our borders. As far as American made, I say, the more local the better. Rogue Industries is a member of Portland Buy Local, which is a great organization dedicated to supporting Portland’s locally owned, independent businesses. They’ve done some studies on the impacts of shopping locally, and the results are incredible. For example: for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy, creating jobs and expanding the city’s tax base. For every $100 spent at a national chain or franchise store, only $14 remains in the community. For every $100 spent on an imported product bought at a national chain store, the amount that stays in the community is probably even lower.


Let’s talk sourcing; bring us into the process a bit, was it a challenge to find domestic material? What, about the leather that you chose, makes it significant and superior?

We look for the highest quality materials we can find. I really like working with companies that have been around for a while, and have a history of offering American made materials. Horween, out in Chicago, is one of the oldest tanneries in the United States, and has been a great partner. They are custom tanning leathers for us for our iPhone cases. We use Lenzip zippers in our shave kits, because they look great, they’re extremely durable and they’re American made.

Wells Lyons

What inspires you and gives you the drive to keep on creating?

Nature is endlessly inspiring. Outside is where I’m happiest, and where I do my best creative work. I like overseeing the process of idea to product, of actually making something you can hold in your hands and give to a friend. It’s rewarding to see effort pay off. It’s meaningful work.

This interview was conducted by the folks at Citizen Native, a store dedicated to finding remarkable, well-designed goods, entirely made in the USA. You can find Rogue Industry’s Made in Maine wallets at Citizen Native.

Rogue Industries
386 Fore Street Suite 502
Portland, Maine 04101
(207) 899-4331