Second Skin

The curious and colorful business of mascot-making.

Olympus Group began as a banner-sewing company in 1893. But as sewing jobs drifted overseas, the Milwaukee enterprise got into custom printing and mascot-making, eventually becoming one of the country’s largest manufacturers of gigantic foam bear, Frankenstein and billy goat costumes.

Its cavernous facility employs about 160 people, and in mid-May, many were busy designing and producing 90 Andy Armadillo get-ups for the Texas Roadhouse chain of restaurants. Workers glued together foam shoes and cowboy hats, and other artists including costume designer Laura Karraker, seen above, crafted smiling Yogi Bear suits for the chain of campgrounds.

The Miller Park racing sausages, designed and manufactured by Olympus, set off a national trend and have led to commissions for racing peppers, astronauts and even a galloping toilet, for a water conservation group.

‘Second Skin’ appears in the July issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the July issue on newsstands beginning June 27, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.