Grafton’s Milwaukee Sign Co. building sold
Pet food distributor buys vacant building

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

June 19, 2014

 The former Milwaukee Sign Co. building has been vacant since 2012. 
Photo by Deb Kranitz


GRAFTON — Redevelopment momentum in Grafton’s south commercial district took a big step forward with new owners for the industrial building at 1964 Wisconsin Avenue.

“We were looking for a new location and that’s what appealed to us about this building,” says Gene Large, a partner in Burlo Pet Services, which purchased the building as Canine Rentals LLC. “We are a distributor of pet food to independent pet food retailers, and this location really works well for us – it’s not too far off the freeway.” Large and his partner, Jennifer Burlo, purchased the building from Jonathan Goodman, and have taken occupancy of the 63,200 square foot building, known locally as the Milwaukee Sign Co. building.

“We plan to use about three-quarters of the building for our business and then lease out the rest of the building,” Large said. “The building itself needs a lot of work, so we’re really just in the process of addressing that and getting things up and running right now.”

Burlo Pet Services currently has 16 employees, and Large says that it’s likely the firm will add additional employees as the wholesale business grows in the new facility. Most of the space will be used for warehousing of pet food. Prior to purchasing the Grafton location, the firm operated out of Cedarburg.

The Milwaukee Sign Co. building was constructed in 1963 and has been used for manufacturing purposes. More recently, it was one of two local Milwaukee Sign Co. plants, which closed its Grafton location in the mid 2000s after merging with Signstrut LTD and moving production to Ohio.

“We’re very excited to see this development in a long-time vacant property in Grafton,” said Village of Grafton Director of Planning and Development Jessica Wolff. “It is adding some additional positive activity to the village’s south commercial district.”

The property was on the market for two years prior to this sale.


Wolff said that the recent transaction is indicative of the redevelopment efforts happening throughout the south commercial district right now. Another new development is occurring in the former Pizza Hut building. This is the new home of Rosati’s Pizza, which is anticipating an Aug. 1 opening.

Progress also continues on the former Highland Ridge development, now known as Village Pointe Commons. In March, Waukesha-based developer Tarantino & Company announced plans for a $20million senior housing complex on the remaining former Manchester Mall property.

“In a year or so, we are anticipating some very big changes for the south commercial district,” Wolff said. “These continued developments are great for everyone.”