Friday, December 16, 2016

Target and Starbucks - A Partnership in the Retail Space

Mike Loftus is a respected Illinois entrepreneur who guides MLE Merchandising & Sign Solutions, Inc., and offers a full range of brand solutions. His firm focuses on the installation and production of signage for retail and corporate interior and exteriors. Mike Loftus and the MLE team also take on space refresh projects. 

An ongoing MLE project spans Target stores across the country and involves Starbucks in-store remodels. Remodels are completed within a four- or five-day timeframe, and the firm has completed more than 70 locations up to the present. Remodels span all cabinetry, plumbing, drywall, lighting, and coffee bar countertops. 

Starbucks has partnered with Target in providing an in-store coffee shop experience for the past several years and maintains a close relationship with the nationwide big-box retailer. As reported in Fortune Magazine, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz presented before Target team members in an April 2016 event designed to rally a company that has weathered demographic-led turbulence following the recession. 

Having successfully rebounded through an innovative sales platform emphasizing e-commerce and collaborative branding through companies such as Lilly and Marimekko, Target is poised for growth once more. Mr. Schultz emphasized the importance of getting the basics and details right, with a focus on reminding customers of what they “fell in love with in the first place,” one cup at a time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Introducing a New Dog to the Resident Dog

For more than 10 years, Mike Loftus has been serving as the president of MLE Merchandising & Sign Solutions, Inc., in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. In this capacity, Mr. Loftus oversees the growth of MLE as the company provides a full range of signage design, production, and installation. A dedicated family man, Mike Loftus enjoys spending time with his wife, children, and four dogs.

The process of introducing a new dog to a resident dog should be done carefully. At first, use cages or small rooms to keep the dogs separated. This provides the dogs with a sense of security and gives them a chance to smell each other before they actually see each other.

To promote familiarity with the smell of the other dog, switch toys or blankets periodically so their smells can be transferred from one dog’s space to the other. After some time, allow the new dog to roam the house while the resident dog is still confined. Next, the resident dog should be allowed to roam freely and explore the new dog's scent.

When introducing the dogs face-to-face, take them to a neutral area so their territorial instincts do not cause aggression. The dogs should be on leashes, but the leashes should be kept loose to reduce tension and allow the dogs to approach each other. 

Alternatively, have a friend walk the new dog while the owner and resident dog walk in front. Over time, the dogs will get used to each other and can be brought together. 

If the dogs show no signs of aggression after they have been brought together, they can be moved to an enclosed area. The dogs should be allowed to establish their own pack hierarchy, but extreme aggression by one or both dogs should be discouraged.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wisconsin’s Great River Road - A Beautiful Way to Take a Road Trip

Illinois-based Mike Loftus and his MLE, Inc., branding and signage firm completed in excess of 15,000 client projects every year for the past three years. He started the company in 2002 and directed its growth to more than $10 million in revenue in 2010. Mike Loftus and his firm are committed to providing a wide range of high-quality digital graphics, interior and exterior signage, merchandising, and product roll-out services to their customers.

In his spare time, Mr. Loftus enjoys boating, sports, and travel, with road trips to Wisconsin a family favorite. The state offers plenty to do for visitors who love outdoor activities, including opportunities for camping, biking, fishing, and adventure sports.

Wisconsin’s Great River Road, a national scenic byway, opens out along the Mississippi River. The byway’s 250 miles in the state wind through 33 distinct communities set against high mountain bluffs, orchards, and farms. Travelers along its length can stop and enjoy fresh produce at the many local farmers’ markets or a taste of the products of the region’s fine wineries. They can tour historical museums and hike through protected natural areas, perhaps even spotting a bald eagle while doing so. 

The entire 3,000-mile expanse of the Great River Road, opened during the Great Depression in the late 1930s, runs through a total of 10 states.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Glimpse of Three of the Best Caribbean Islands for Sailors


Through his own business at MLE, Inc., in Elk Grove, Illinois, Mike Loftus provides jobs for more than 100 employees. He started the signage and graphics branding operation more than a decade ago while still in his 20s, and since then, he has grown it exponentially. Even after bringing in more than $25 million in revenue in 2015, Mike Loftus is setting his sights on retirement, when he plans to live on a boat among the world’s islands.

A number of travel guides and websites have listed the best Caribbean islands for sailing. These include the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Sailors love the British Virgin Islands, one of the world’s most popular yachting destinations. The 25-island chain extends along spectacular natural features such as out-of-the-way coves and bays. Experienced deckhands praise the steady, predictable winds, as well as the ease of hopping from one island to the next.

St. Lucia forms a natural midpoint for sailors navigating between the warmth of Caribbean waters on one coast and the depths of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Sailors on a budget have found it very affordable and have loved the striking views of the island’s twin Piton mountains against the sea.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines offer plenty of tranquility. Only nine of the 32 Grenadines are populated, and the islands’ soft trade winds have beckoned travelers for centuries. Bequia, once a pirate metropolis, offers golden-toned beaches, shopping, and restaurants as a favorite port of call.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What You Need to Know About Owning a Great Dane

For more than a decade, Mike Loftus has served as the president of MLE, a signage and branding company in Illinois. When not working on projects for MLE clients, Mike Loftus enjoys spending time with his family and pets. He owns a dachshund, a Jack Russell terrier, and two great Danes.

Great Danes are excellent dogs, but individuals should consider a few factors before they make the decision to adopt one. The first and most obvious factor is size. Great Danes grow to be between 110 and 140 pounds, and people need to make sure that they can handle that large of a dog. A larger dog is also a greater financial investment since they can easily eat eight cups of food each day. Also, great Danes are very social and like to be by an owner’s side--or even in their lap. People who like a lot of personal space may want to consider a different breed.

Another important factor is saliva. Keeping up with the excess saliva from a great Dane is a major struggle, so owners should be ok with some water and drool on the floor at times.

Also, great Danes are prone to separation anxiety, so they are not a breed that can be left alone for 10 hours each day. Long periods of separation can cause depression and/or destructive behavior.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Brief History of Vinyl Graphics and the Signage Industry

Since 2002, Mike Loftus has served as the president of MLE, a middle-market company that provides branding services. A major part of MLE’s business involves the design, creation, and installation of large-format digitally printed branding material inside or outside of commercial shops. Mike Loftus has a strong passion for vinyl graphics and dedicates a great deal of time to learning about new, cutting-edge techniques, as well as the history of this industry.

Machines called vinyl plotters are used to cut graphics on vinyl sheets that have an adhesive backing. Since the mid-1990s, this technology has been the main staple of sign production. Only a few decades ago, most signs were handmade or painted. The first vinyl plotter was made in the early 1980s, but the manufacturer retailed it for $10,000. Once personal computers became more popular in the 1990s, other companies began offering more affordable machines.

Toward the end of the 1990s, hybrid plotters became commercially available. These machines printed full-color images on vinyl, which meant that customers no longer had to choose between a few colors. Today, most companies use cut vinyl and digital printing to produce cost-effective signs that require much less time than in decades past.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Examples of Great Grilled Desserts

Founder and president of MLE, Inc., Mike Loftus oversees and finances all operations at the merchandising and sign solutions company. Outside of MLE, Mike Loftus loves grilling; he grills everything, from breakfast dishes to desserts. When most people think of grilling, they think of grilled steaks or chicken, but there are actually several desserts that can easily be made on the grill. Following are just a few examples of grilled desserts:

- Skillet pie: Though it takes roughly two hours to cook, a grilled skillet pie is great for showcasing some seasonal fruits. The grill creates a golden brown pie crust that is still tender and mixes perfectly with some ice cream or whipped cream.

- Skillet grunt: A classic dessert in the United States, grunt is a combination of dough topping and fruit stew. When made in a skillet, it can easily be cooked on a grill while everyone is enjoying the main course.

- Peach melba: Another well-known dessert, peach melba can easily be adapted to the grill. Grilling the peach halves before topping them with ice cream and puree helps caramelize the fruit while giving it a unique grilled flavor.

- Banana bites: Perfect for kids, grilled banana bites sandwich lightly charred chunks of banana, marshmallow, chocolate, and peanut butter in small rolls. The dessert takes around 10 minutes to make and is a simple way to finish off an outdoor meal.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Properly Caring for a Dachshund


Mike Loftus has spent the past 14 years leading the merchandising and sign solutions company MLE, Inc. as president. When he’s not busy with his responsibilities at MLE, Mike Loftus enjoys spending time with his family and pets. He and his wife have three children, a jack russell, two great danes, and a dachshund.

Dachshunds are friendly and loving dogs, but as with any breed, they require a bit of personalized care.

Most dachshunds have either wirehaired, smooth, or longhaired coats. Typically, dachshund owners can get away with occasional grooming for medium-length coats. As the length of their coat increases, so does the need for regular grooming. Grooming can often be done at home, but it must include regular nail trimming and ear checks.

Dachshunds’ teeth should also be brushed regularly. Some owners may decide to brush their dog’s teeth every day, but the actual length of time between brushing can be determined by a veterinarian.

Beyond general grooming requirements, dachshunds also require specific health care. As with other breeds, there is a risk of dachshunds becoming overweight. To prevent this, owners should discuss what sort of feeding guidelines are needed for their dog because some dachshunds may have different digestive needs.

Further, they need some exercise to stay happy and healthy. Due to their short stature, dachshunds are prone to back issues, especially if they are overweight.

In addition to regulating food and exercise, owners should keep their dachshunds from climbing up and down stairs too often and jumping on furniture, since both activities may strain their backs.