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.

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