Welcome to part 1 of 3 of our blog entries for our upcoming convention. After several years away, we are again attending the National Hardware Show as an exhibitor. We are excited to head to Las Vegas to showcase all of our great products. Come visit us at booth #10863 in Lawn & Garden World, where we will have plenty of exciting giveaways to present our plastic chain, stanchions and lawn & garden products. Brian Majestic, our sales manager, has been working hard on this project and has been tremendously busy preparing for the show.
But, before we look toward the future, let’s dust off the Delorean and take a step back in time.
Mr. Chain first exhibited at the National Hardware Show in New York. In the 90’s, the show moved to Chicago and we followed. The first set of pictures below highlight our different products from the time period.
The next picture is from our 1996 exhibit and shows the overall booth design. The picture also shows our plastic chain, stanchions and crowd control products.
As you can imagine booth design has changed considerably in the 21st century and in our next blog of the series we will be showing off the new booth from Exhibit Design Consultants.
Thanks for reading!
[caption id="attachment_440" align="alignright" width="300"] American Flag made from 1" plastic ring chain[/caption]
As a U.S. manufacturer, of course, we at MR CHAIN use the Made in USA as much as we can as a marketing tool. It is really a crime that so many of our core industries are gone or fading fast. Not that many years ago, our cars came from Detroit; our furniture came from North Carolina or Grand Rapids, MI; shoes were made in Massachusetts, and textiles were from South Carolina. Today, that is no longer true, and it takes a concerted effort to find American made clothing, electronics, or appliances. As a plastic injection molder, we find it a challenge ourselves to buy a US made molding machine. Eight of our 12 injection molding machines were made in Japan, and finding parts and especially service is a challenge.
So, what can be done to turn this around - or is it too late? As much as we want to be patriotic and support American workers and businesses, consumers deserve to purchase goods that are the best quality; they deserve world-class service, and competitive prices. So, as much as we want to do whatever we can as consumers to put Americans back to work, even out our balance of trade, and become more competitive in the world, the answer is not blind protectionism. As American manufacturer, we have to make the investments in technology, innovation, and people to be competitive.
We have to play on our strengths and differentiate ourselves from foreign competition. At Mr CHAIN, we have focused on three areas: goods are in stock and ready to ship; products are made only from prime materials, and we have a huge array of colors and sizes. As the costs of shipping increase, and currency rates fluctuate, we are getting much closer to being competitive on pricing also, but, in the meantime, we are concentrating on offering a better product, and wider selection, and immediate shipment. Our customers deserve no less, and while we are very proud to say "Made in America", we also know we have to back that up with superior products and performance.
Michael T. Russo was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 4, 1920. He was attending Ohio State University when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Like many patriotic Americans, he immediately enlisted in the US Army, and requested pilot training. Russo received his primary training at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, advanced training at Randolph Field, Texas, and finally earned his wings at Moore Field, near Mission, Texas. He was then sent to Meridian, Mississippi for training in the new A-36 Invader, the dive bomber version of the P~51A Mustang. Following sixteen hours of flight time in the A-36, Russo was assigned to the 16 th Bomb Squadron (later redesignated as the 522'd Fighter-Bomber Squadron) of the 27 h Bomb Group (Light.) Flying out of North Africa, then Lt. Russo would score his first confirmed aerial victory on September 13, 1943, when his flight executed a diving attack on twelve Fw-190s which were attacking Allied shipping off the coast of Italy. In October Russo's flight attacked Ju-88s on the ground at an airfield near Rome. They were attacked by seven Bf-109s, and although his comrades downed three of the German fighters, Russo did not get one. Later that day, on a second sweep over that area, Russo downed a small biplane which unluckily came into the range of his guns. That aircraft was believed to be a Fiesler Storche 167. In December a flight of twelve A-36s were directed to the airfield at Aversano to strafe Ju-52s. Russo bagged one of the German transports after it had taken off, thereby attaining a third aerial victory. On one mission Russo strafed a column of German troops with devastating results. His crew chief surprised the young pilot by painting "Killer Russo" on the tail of his A-36. Not wanting to make himself a target for the enemy, or risk hostile treatment, if were downed in combat, Russo had the nickname removed from his aircraft. On December 30, 1943 Russo's flight of twelve A-36s was bounced by sixteen Bf-109s near Rome. In the ensuing battle, Russo downed two of the German fighters. With those two victories Russo became the only A-36 ace of the War, and the first Mustang ace. Russo participated in a number of War Bond drives in the States, and he was promoted to Captain in 1944. Mike left military service with the end of the War with 169 points.
Russo's decorations include the Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, The Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal with fourteen Oak Leaf Clusters. After his death in 2006, at the age of 85, all of these medals, his flight jacket, pilot logs, and other important memorabilia were donated to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington where they are part of the World War II collection. Russo attributed his success with the A-36 to his engineering oriented way of thinking. He knew that the Allison engine in the A-36 would only perform at optimal levels close to sea level. At any altitude the German fighters would have far superior performance advantages. He also knew that he had to face and pursue the enemy and never turn his back, since all the guns were only in the front of the plane. Knowing the limitations of his aircraft helped save his life on a number of occasions. There were very close to 100% casualties in Russo's squadron, and the Allison powered version of the Mustang would prove a relatively unimpressive aircraft until the Merlin engine was fitted to the airframe and the P-5 1 B was born.
Russo participated in a number of War Bond drives in the States, and he was promoted to Captain in 1944. Mike left military service with the end of the War with 169 points. He established M R Products, Inc. in 1960, a family business operating under the Tradename, Mr. Chain
[caption id="attachment_419" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=""The First Mustang Ace" by Stan Stokes"][/caption]
- MR CHAIN Flag, featured at the GSA show in Orlando
As a new GSA contract holder, MR CHAIN was attending its first GSA show in Orlando, Florida this May. We wanted to emphasize that MR CHAIN is a US manufacturer. Our idea was to make a US flag completely out of plastic chain. We decided to use our one inch ring plastic chain, since the ring style is a perfect circle. Of course, we used our standard red and white plastic chain, plus one of our specialty colors - cobalt blue. Since the booth was less than 10 feet wide, we wanted the flag to be about five feet wide, so we knew that approximately 60 rows of one inch chain would work. For the rod, we purchased a metal dowel and used one inch red and cobalt blue master links as the top row on the rod. The stripes were easy - just four red and four white links for the height of each stripe, so the flag had to be 52 links in height to make the thirteen stripes.. Actually, we used four red links, a white master link, two white links, another white master link, four red links, etc. Besides using a real American flag as a guide, we also purchased a rug hooking pattern to get the proper proportions. The stars were the biggest challenge since they have to be spaced vertically with six columns of five stars each and five columns of four stars each. The rows also had to be staggered vertically. After some experimenting, the most authentic looking stars needed to be placed using two columns each - each star uses four rings of white chain. None of the vertical rows of chain are connected to each other at all. We simply hung the rod on two or three vertical supports, and spaced the columns of chain evenly along the rod. Overall, it took 3,120 links of one inch ring chain to make.the entire MR CHAIN U.S.flag. Since there is never more than four links of any one color in a column, this required lots of cutting. With a little pattern planning, it would be possible to make any country, state or college flag out of plastic chain.
The flag was a huge hit with GSA show attendees, and it attracted lots of people to the MR CHAIN booth. Many people wanted to examine it to see how it was made, and several took pictures. We even had a few people who wanted to purchase the flag from us, but it was not for sale. Now, the flag has a place of honor on the wall in our factory
in Copemish, Michigan.
- Mercedes and Velvet Kidding
There are so many uses for plastic chain, but this is one of our favorites. One of our customers provides many colors of our plastic chain as collars for their goats. The colorful plastic chainprotects the goats from hunters; it also helps differentiate which goats have had certain inoculations, or what diet they need. The chain is strong enough to lead the goats, but will not hurt the animal. And, if the goat gets stuck on a bush, the plastic chain will not choke the goat. Isn't this an innovative use of MR Chain plastic chain?
All of this reminds us of the "Goat joke". There were two goats, behind a movie theatre, chewing on some cans of film. One goat asked the other, "How do like the film?" The other goat replied, "I liked the book better".
We really love to hear about unusual or creative uses for Mr Chain plastic chain.
[caption id="attachment_368" align="alignleft" width="112"] Dinner Time[/caption]
After more than 40 years in the Village of Copemish, MI, the employees at MR CHAIN celebrated the Company's 50th Anniversary by giving back to the local community. First, there was a Bake Sale to benefit the Copemish Village Library, organized by Annabelle Strong, one of the machine operators on the first shift.
Then, in early September, the managers of the Copemish Flea Market gave us some space, and we sold home made baked goods; household items, hand-made greeting cards, and clothing. Several employees baked cookies, pies, bread, etc., and a few worked the booth for the weekend.
Finally, we ran a Charity Poker Bike Run, that started at our factory, and ran about 100 miles, mostly along the scenic M-22, along Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was a rainy day, but those who participated were enthusiastic. After stops at the Empire Village Inn, , Jodi's Tangled Antler, and the Cabbage Shed in Elberta, the final stop was at the Laughing Horse Saloon in Thompsonville, where all the riders enjoyed tacos, and played out their poker hands. All three of the winning prizes ended up going to MR CHAIN employees, and the proceeds from both the Flea Market and the Bike Run went to benefit the St. Joseph Food Pantry, in Onekama, MI.
These are sooooo good! Linda Frees, our Shipping manager, makes these every year at Christmas, and they are addictive!
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter (not margarine)
Mix all together with pastry blender. Set aside one cup. Press the remaining crumb mixture into a 9"x13" unbuttered pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
1 bag caramels (about 50)
5 TBL. milk
Melt caramels and milk together in microwave for 1-2 minutes until mostly melted. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Remove and stir until smooth.
When crust is done, pour the caramel filling on top, spreading out to almost the edges of pan. Then sprinkle on 1 cup Nestle butterscotch pieces; 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1 cup reserved crumb mixture.
Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes. Remove and score into 1" bars. After cookies are cool, cut and enjoy.
(May substitute another type of chopped nuts or another flavor of chips.)
Halloween is big business, and getting bigger every year. Spending on Halloween decorating is second only to Christmas. And, as far as celebrations go, celebrations for Halloween rank second or third in the U.S., depending on who is counting, only to New Year's Eve and Super Bowl Sunday.
reported that Americans spent $66.54 per person on Halloween in 2008. The survey also reported that 62.1% of those surveyed will take part in some sort of Halloween activities, including wearing a costume (33.4%), carving a pumpkin (42.4%), going to a party (30.2%), giving out candy (71.2%), decorating a home or yard (47.3%), or trick or treating (31.8%).
After a long time planning and building, MR CHAIN is happily settling into our new offices.
In order to consolidate our operations in one place, M R Products has built new corporate offices inside the footprint of our factory. It was a challenge to fit everything we needed inside our existing building, but with the help of Fred Campbell of JML Design Group, LTD of Traverse City, we were able to come up with a plan to fit six offices, a conference room, lunchroom, two restrooms, copy room, and mechanical room - all within our existing facility. This also meant we had to relocate our old quality control and maintenance areas to other parts of the factory.
The actual construction began in June and ended in September. Robert T. Cole of Cadillac, MI was our General Contractor.
Besides saving on rent, the move also allows us to have all our employees in one place, which is much more efficient, allows better direct communication, and should allow us all to focus on what we like to do best at M R Products - produce quality plastic chain, plastic stanchions, and lawn and garden products for our industrial and retail customers.
Now that we are more or less settled in our new offices, we'd like to introduce two new key people in Copemish.
Ryan Schultz is our new Controller, although he has taken on responsibilities for all kinds of areas, including updates to our web site, human resource administration, computers, telephones, etc., etc. Ryan is a student at Baker College in Cadillac, studying Business Administration, with a focus on accounting. He must be a pretty good student, since the College has already asked him to teach. Ryan likes to hunt (and do all the outdoor-sy things people do in Northern Michigan). In his spare time, he is also the Treasurer for the Friends of the Cadillac, MI Public Library, and has coached hockey for 11 and 12 year old boys and girls.
Shirley Singletary is our new Customer Service Associate. Shirley had extensive service in Customer Service from a previous job in Traverse City. She has great skills in numerous software programs, including computer graphics, and has been busy learning our products and developing all new printed marketing material. She is working with outside printers and photographers, and recently accompanied the photographer to a photo shoot in the local cemetery to take pictures of MR CHAIN's black "wrought iron look" plastic chainfor a Halloween project. Shirley is very organized, and detail-oriented, and she has a very pleasant, professional manner on the phone. Shirley has also worked in the medical field, and is certified in CPR. She has a pretty diverse background, and wanted us to know, that she is even certified to drive our fork lift. Shirley lives in Copemish with her 19 - YES, that is right, 19! cats.