Stormy Kromer partners to make portable sauna tents

Mention Stormy Kromer and an immediate picture comes to mind — that of a simple wool cap with an ear band attached. 

The original Stormy Kromer cap was made in 1903 when George “Stormy” Kromer, a railroad engineer, asked his wife, Ida, to make him a new cap with an ear band that would fit snugly and help the cap to stay in place, according to Stormy Kromer’s website.

But over the years, the Ironwood-based company’s products have grown to include a varied line, from purse wristlets and coffee mugs to dog jackets and “a full line of durable, hand-stitched wool clothing for every reason and every season.” 

And now, Stormy Kromer is partnering with Snowtrekker Tents of Viroqua, Wisconsin, to produce a portable sauna tent.

A unique partnership: Stormy Kromer CEO Gina Jacquart Thorsen said the company has been working with Snowtrekker Tents for more than 15 years. “We have been a behind-the-scenes manufacturer of their best-in-class winter camping tents during that time. We felt that there was a great opportunity to present this product as a true collaboration,” said Thorsen, who has been with Stormy Kromer for 14 years. “Sauna culture runs deep in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Instead of merely manufacturing for them, we worked extensively with them throughout the development process.”

Stormy Kromer has also partnered with them on the product launch and marketing. “We think it makes a lot of sense for two Midwestern brands who definitely know winter to jointly put their names on this innovative product,” Thorsen said.

 She added that the two companies share the same values of quality, authenticity, and durability. Both Stormy Kromer and Snowtrekker Tents are family-owned and operated companies. 

The development process: Stormy Kromer and Snowtrekker Tents have been developing the sauna tent for several years. “The goal was to create a portable sauna that gives an experience as close to a permanent wood-fired sauna as possible,” Thorsen said. “The development process included extensive fabric and materials research, prototyping and testing, as well as the development of an optional woodstove to be used with the tent for maximum impact.”

Why it matters: “Saunas are experiencing a surge in popularity across the upper Midwest, in part due to the myriad of health benefits that the heat of a sauna can provide, including increased circulation, relief of muscle and joint pain, reduced stress, improved immune system function, etc.,” Thorsen said. 

“For many people, the expense and logistics of a more permanent sauna structure are prohibitive. A truly portable sauna that replicates a structured wood stove sauna solves these problems. The tent can be put up temporarily in a suburban backyard, it can be taken to lake homes or on camping trips—set up and tear down are both very easy. Additionally, the sauna, with its full coverage rain fly, can also be left set up for extended periods of time,” she said.

Expected target market: The portable sauna tent’s target market is varied. In urban areas, which have code restrictions on permanent structures, the portable units provide a viable alternative. It’s also appealing to individuals with a health-conscious lifestyle and those who want a traditional-style sauna experience at a lower price point. 

Significance of adding the sauna to Stormy Kromer’s product line: “We are always on the lookout for collaborations and product extensions which make sense to our brand and to our customers,” Thorsen said. “While our main focus is and will remain caps, apparel and accessories, when opportunities arise to partner with other brands who have expertise to create something new and innovative, we will absolutely do it.”

Location: Stormy Kromer is part of Jacquart Fabric Products in Ironwood; Stormy became part of the company in 2001. Stormy Kromer forms about 80 percent of Jacquart’s total business with contract manufacturing filling in the remaining portion. Jacquart Fabric Products occupies more than 90,000 square feet at its Ironwood facility. It employs more than 100 Midwestern workers and is owned and operated by the second and third generations of the Jacquart family.

Stormy Kromer’s factory store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to noon CST Saturday.  Tours are given but reservations are required. There’s even a Giant Cap Statue outside, which makes a fun backdrop for photos. 

Additional information is available at Snowtrekker Tents. Tents also may be purchased at the website.

Ann Dallman has lifelong roots in Michigan’s U.P. She started out as a newspaper reporter/photographer and returned to journalism after retiring from teaching. Her first Middle Grade novel, Cady and the Bear Necklace, received a State History Award (Books/Youth) from the Historical Society of Michigan, as well as a Midwest Book Award, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was a Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist and a UP Notable Book. Her second book, Cady and the Birchbark Box, also received the Historical Society of Michigan State Award and is also a UP Notable Book.
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