Because I was around since the beginning, I thought it might be interesting to record my memories of how things were back in 1960, when my dad, Michael T. Russo, founded M R products, Inc. I was 12 years old, and I remember that we all pitched in to help, whether it was cleaning the offices or typing invoices. Until then, my dad had been selling extracts for beverages, and he traveled quite a bit. It was his dream to have his own business, and, because he was in the beverage business, he came up with a new product idea for a plastic reseal cap. He applied for and was granted a patent. Since back then, most soda came in 16 oz. glass bottles, these reseal caps were perfect to keep the carbonation in the bottle. The cap could also show some advertising, so Pepsi liked it, and gave my dad $12,000 for the patent. I remember that my mother, sister and I were excited since my dad got to meet Joan Crawford, who was Vice Chairman of PepsiCo at that time.
With that small amount of capital, my father bought one injection molding machine and rented some space in a factory in Madison Heights, MI. He would put on old clothes to work at the factory and make parts, and then change into a suit and tie to try to sell them. Back in the early '60s, plastic engineering and manufacturing was very new, and he had to experiment with all kinds of materials to find the best material for a particular part. I remember once, when he was mixing materials and trying to purge them with a plunger, he burned off one of his eyebrows with a nylon material! No one had a degree in plastics engineering back then, but my dad did study engineering at Ohio State, and he had an inventive mind. He was always curious about how things worked, and once came up with an idea for locking a stanchion by studying a medical catheter.
In the early years, M R Products, Inc. was a supplier to General Motors, Chrysler, and Stanley Door, but it was his dream to make his own proprietary products. Over the course of the first ten years in business, he applied for almost 100 patents, and was granted at least 27. These patents included several designs for plastic posts, a greenhouse, flower pots, and an entire line of safety and crowd control products. By the middle 1980's, the product line included 3 styles and nine sizes of plastic chain, plus matching S-hooks, C-hooks, connecting links, O-rings, plastic clips, and masterlinks.
By 1970,MR Products, Inc. owned two manufacturing plants - one on Larchwood Road in Troy, MI, and the other in the Village of Copemish, MI. Around that time, the Company started using the trade name, "MR CHAIN". By 1975, the Company ceased molding parts for anyone else, and made only proprietary products. The Company grew and became a supplier of safety and crowd control products for industrial and retail markets. At one time , there were a couple of other U.S. suppliers for plastic chain, but gradually other manufacturing moved offshore, and MR CHAIN has been the only U.S. supplier for plastic chain now for several years.
Over the years, Michael Russo continued to invent new items and invent new products. His last patent was issued in 1997 and was for a plastic clip that we still sell as our "MR Clip". See patent information here. http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5653004/claims.html
Although, my dad passed away in 2006 at the age of 85, he never stopped working and thinking about new inventions. His family is continuing his legacy.
In addition to being a former UFC Champion, "Rampage" landed the role of B.A. Baracus in The A-Team movie which is due to be released in June 2010. Unlike Mr T., the original B.A. Baracus in The A-Team 1980’s TV series, Rampage will not be donning an excessive amount of gold chains in his portrayal of the role.
Even though Rampage is pursuing his movie career, he is by no means done with the UFC. He is scheduled to return to the UFC ring on May 29
Maybe he will be sporting his Mr. Chain chain when he returns to the ring this year to finally face down the long standing feud with his arch nemesis, Rashad Evans.
[caption id="attachment_251" align="alignright" width="210"] Quinton "Rampage" Jackson[/caption]
We are known for our chains and stanchions for use in crowd control, school safety and so on, however, on occasion our products are utilized in other ways. Take Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Former UFC Lightweight Champion for example. He sports a Mr. Chain chain as a necklace.
As with any product, one challenge we have when selling plastic chain is that most customers are more used to buying metal chain. So, it seemed to be worth it to add a post about the pros and cons of plastic chain vs. metal chain.
If it is vitally important that the chain holds a lot of weight, by all means, use metal chain. While we love to sell our plastic chain, no one at Mr Chain wants to be responsible if a car falls off a trailer, or a child's swing falls down.
But, if it is more important to mark off an area for crowd control, here are a few reasons why plastic chain is actually a lot better than metal chain.
Plastic chain is more visible. And, since the plastic chain from MR CHAIN comes in 15 standard colors, including bright yellow, safety orange, safety green, and several florescent colors, there is no question that plastic chain is much more visible, especially at night.
Metal chain rusts and plastic chain never does - enough said about that.
Metal chain will damage vehicles, as you know if you ever drove into it. Protect your investment in snow plows or other maintenance vehicles, and avoid angry customers by making sure their vehicles are unharmed. You will definitely know you hit something if you drive into plastic chain, but you won't hurt your car, or yourself either.
Plastic chain can be easily repaired. Use one of Mr Chain's master links, all made to perfectly match our plastic chain, and you will never even see where there was a break.
Plastic chain is light and easily placed in no time at all. It can be set up for temporary use - to set aside an area for a day - or set up on a permanent basis. All our plastic chain at Mr Chain is UV treated to retard fading, so it is perfect for outdoor use.
Add to that, all our plastic chain from MR CHAIN is Made in the USA and we have been making it here for over 40 years. It seems by now, everyone would know that plastic chain can be the superior choice for so many applications, but we are happy to explain all this since we love to talk about our plastic chain.
On the first weekend in August, the Village of Copemish, MI, celebrates Heritage Days. This year, the weather was perfect all three days, and there were lots of fun-filled events, including a strawberry social, firetruck and pony rides, a 5k run, loads of events for kids, music, and fun. Since it is our 50th anniversary, M R Products was asked to be the Grand Marshal in the parade on Saturday. We used our own products -plastic chain and plastic stanchions, flower pots and deck tables - to decorate the float.
On Friday night, M R Products sponsored the Joel Tacey show. Joel made lots of balloon animals for the younger kids, and then performed a magic show for young and old alike. His show was followed by the Scotville Clown Band who have performed at Heritage Days for several years now.
Next year, we will try to get the entire Russo family here on the first week in August to enjoy the Copemish Heritage Days, and ride on the M R Products float.
For all of you businesses out there looking for a new home, Muskegon - our neighbor to the south - is upping the ante to add Michigan to your short-list. They are participating in a program called the "Muskegon 25," in partnership with Muskegon County, Dalton Township and the Muskegon Area First economic development group.
In short, companies that promise to create at least 25 new industrial jobs will be given space in one of the area's two industrial parks. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette article, "the creation of 25 jobs gets a company five acres, 50 jobs gets 12 acres, 75 jobs get 20 acres and 100 jobs gets 30 acres." In addition, companies will be eligible for tax incentives and reduced utility rates.
These efforts come as a result of the county's current jobless rate, which is at 13.9%. Increases in manufacturing jobs would go a long way in restoring the area's vitality. While not all experts and industry insiders agree on the effectiveness of tax breaks and credits, they all cite incentives as being paramount to succeeding in a recovering economy.
As a fellow Michigan-based business, Mr. Chain wishes Muskegon the best of luck at improving the manufacturing landscape in their area.
As fall approaches, one can’t help but think about the new school year that will soon be here. In addition to making sure that classrooms are stocked with all of the necessary supplies, schools also need to be sure that safety is taken care of.
With so many children running around and playing, the parking lot and bus drop-off zones are areas where safety measures are extremely important.
[caption id="attachment_184" align="alignleft" width="300"] Creating controlled bus-loading zones will make dismissal safe and easy.[/caption]
If your school has several bus routes, one way to ease confusion and chaos at dismissal is to create color-coded loading areas. Assign a color to each bus route and, using Mr. Chain plastic links and stanchions, create corresponding spaces near the bus loading zone for students to wait in. Not only does it make sure everybody gets on the right bus, it also keeps students away from the vehicles until they’re safely parked and ready for boarding.
Plastic chains and stanchions can also be helpful in determining areas where parents are allowed to park when they drop their children off in the morning or pick them up in the afternoon. Driveways and streets near popular pedestrian crossways can be blocked off during those hours, or cars can be routed in a particular direction to facilitate traffic flow.
One advantage with using Mr. Chain products is that they are lightweight, giving you plenty of flexibility. They can be put in place during high traffic times and removed afterwards, and can also be easily moved while in use. Safety patrol members could even help set them up each day with adult supervision.
[caption id="attachment_185" align="alignright" width="300"] Helping kids stay safe on playgrounds reduces recess worries.[/caption]
A similar stanchion and chain setup could be used in the lunchroom or in the school library to keep lines organized and moving smoothly, or even on the playground to mark areas that may be off-limits or to create field game areas (such as separate areas for soccer and football). They can also be used in gardens to keep curious children out of the bushes!
The chains can be custom ordered in your school colors, so not only are they practical, they also help show school spirit! We also offer stanchions and chains specifically designed for pedestrian crossings, which are bright green in color and feature reflective tape for extra visibility. To explore safety solutions that may be right for your school, please visit our website.
Your garden doesn’t have to go bare just because the end of summer is approaching! Now is a great time to do maintenance that will extend the life of what is already planted and to do some work to ensure a great garden come spring!
[caption id="attachment_209" align="alignleft" width="300"] Keep your roses blooming throughout fall.[/caption]
Late summer/early fall is a wonderful time to plant shrubs. The cooler weather gives the plant plenty of time to get established before winter. Be sure to water well after planting and cover the root bulb with mulch to protect from cold air. Late summer is also the perfect time to trim, as removing dead stems, shortening healthy stalks and giving a dose of rose fertilizer will encourage growth well into fall. After pruning, water well near the base of the plant once a week; however, avoid overhead sprinklers as those can cause black spot, powdery mildew and rust. If tall roses need some support, invest in a trellis system which will take some weight and stress off of the plant.
[caption id="attachment_210" align="alignright" width="300"] Autumn vegetables keep fresh produce growing in cooler weather.[/caption]
Colors don’t have to fade simply because the seasons are changing. Hardy mums, asters, marigolds and anemones provide bright blooms into the cooler weather. Autumn vegetables are a great way to keep your gardens full - crops such as carrots, fennel, kale, lettuce and cabbage grow well in these temperatures, as do radishes, spinach and turnips. Parsnips can even be kept in the ground throughout winter and harvested in the spring! Mark your vegetables using a seed packet holder or other label so you remember which is which!
Fall is also the time to plant bulbs for next year – tulips, daffodils, irises and crocuses bring early spring color to yards, but the bulbs need to be planted by mid-November. Did you know you can purchase bulbs now and keep them in your vegetable drawer for at least six to eight weeks? This will make sure that the bulbs have had a long enough dormant period to create great blooms come February and March. Also, garlic and shallots can be planted in autumn for a harvest next summer.
Flickr photo credits, from top: jessica.diamond, Southern Foodways Alliance
For those animal lovers out there, did you know you can make safe and colorful pet toys with Mr. Chain products?
[caption id="attachment_171" align="alignright" width="123"] This bird toy offers an exciting activity for your feathered friend.[/caption]
Birds love the bright links, which are used to suspend bells, mirrors, beads, and other interesting objects from the cage. This gives your feathered friends an interactive, engaging activity to exercise both their brains and their beaks. The folks at Greenfeather Bird Supply have come up with some clever ideas to keep your birds busy, with toys and objects of various shapes and sizes.
Another pet that enjoys toys made with Mr. Chain plastic chain are sugar gliders! Online vendors, such as Spoonful of Sugars sell the lightweight chain to craft your own toys for these adorable marsupials. You can also create a gym for these little guys by stringing chains around the cage for climbing and exploring.
The key is to provide toys and an environment that offers a lot of stimulation and interest for your pet. The combination of colors, textures as well as sounds make these and similar pieces a good option for your animals and a fun project for you and your family!
Mr. Chain has recently been awarded its GSA Schedule and Contract! Hooray! Wait, er……what does that mean and why are we excited about it? We’ll tell you!
GSA stands for General Services Administration, which was founded by President Harry Truman in 1949. The newly formed GSA consolidated several government offices, including the National Archives, the Federal Works Agency, the War Assets Administration and the Bureau of Federal Supply, into one agency whose function was to administer office supplies to federal employees and agencies. Also falling under their area of responsibility was disposing of surplus war goods, managing government records and handling emergency preparedness.
Over the years, the GSA has come to offer a wide variety of products and services to government employees at a discounted rate. The goal is to make government agencies and projects as economically efficient as possible.
“Products” covers a wide swath of objects and isn’t limited to pens, paper and office equipment: included in the long list of items that can be secured are vehicles, construction and industrial supplies and technology equipment. “Services” offered include advertising, HR and logistics, to name a few. Through its website, the GSA manages a directory of vendors who have been approved to sell these items and services at the government discounted rate and even allows federal employees to place their orders.
Since being awarded our GSA contract, most of our products have become available for purchase through GSA’s website. We’ll also honor GSA pricing for orders made directly through our website and representatives. We are proud to help government agencies do their best work on our country’s behalf.
You may have noticed on our website that Mr. Chain has recently become HUBZone certified….well, that’s very official sounding, but what exactly does that mean? How did we qualify?
The HUBZone program was put into motion by an Act of Congress that was meant to spur economic growth in areas with lower-than-average levels of production. In fact, that’s what HUBZone stands for – historically underutilized business zone. By requiring that a certain percentage of federal government contracts and sub-contracts be awarded to businesses that have been certified as operating in a HUBZone, investment levels and employment opportunities should increase in these areas.
[caption id="attachment_155" align="alignright" width="300"] Our production facility in Copemish, MI[/caption]
Our production facility, located in the Village of Copemish, Michigan (a little town in the northwestern Lower Peninsula), falls within one of these HUBZone areas. However, that’s not reason enough to become HUBZone certified.
Fortunately for us, we satisfied all of the government’s additional requirements to become certified - we’re a small business that is majority owned by US citizens, and at least 35% of our workforce lives within the HUBZone area of Manistee County. We’re so proud to be operating in Michigan and able to offer products that are made in the United States.
If you’d like to learn more about HUBZone certification, click here. And if you’d like more information about Mr. Chain, please visit our website.