Grafton kiosk firm branches into the great outdoors

Request from Space Center Houston leads Frank Mayer to build new line of displays that can stand up to the elements

KIOSKS OUTSIDE THE Houston Space Center in Texas were made by Frank Mayer Kiosks and Displays of Grafton, leading the way for the company’s new endeavor into making outdoor kiosks. Working on the project were (from left below in photo at left) Senior Project Leader Michael Mayer, Director of Marketing Cheryl Lesniak and Creative Director Ryan Lepianka. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

A request from the Space Center Houston in Texas led Grafton’s Frank Mayer Kiosks and Displays to its newest endeavor — building outdoor kiosks for a variety of uses.

The Space Center called the company to see if it could build outdoor kiosks where visitors, who have their photos taken at displays throughout the museum, could stop to check out the photos, then order and pay for them.

“It was a natural next step for us,” Michael Mayer, senior project leader and great-grandson of the firm’s founder, said, noting the company already made kiosks for the indoors.

“I think that really launched us into thinking, ‘That’s a cool market to try.’”

Frank Mayer’s outdoor kiosks are not only at the Space Center, they can be found at places such as Graceland and the World of Coca Cola as well.

Local residents can get a glimpse of these kiosks at the company’s Grafton headquarters, where three of them stand just outside the building, exposed to the elements.

“We have the perfect weather to test these,” Cheryl Lesniak, the firm’s director of marketing, said.

While the harsh reality of winter’s cold, snow and ice — not to mention Monday’s torrential rainstorm — give the kiosks a good test for this season, they also need to withstand the heat and humidity of summer.

So Frank Mayer employees built a hot box that exposes the kiosks to temperatures as high as 135 degrees.

“I really wanted to replicate the situation in Arizona when it’s 120 degrees,” Mayer said.

The kiosks have heating and ventilating systems to protect the systems inside them.

“Between 50 and 80 degrees is the sweet spot” for the kiosks’ internal temperatures, Mayer said, even though “all the components are rated for crazy hot and crazy cold temperatures.”

Data loggers on the test kiosks provide real time data so the company can tell how the kiosks react to the heat and cold.

Making sure the kiosks are able to withstand everything nature throws at them — including dust, sand, bugs, salt and water — was a big challenge, Mayer said.

He and the company’s team of designers, engineers, technicians and others worked to create kiosks that were sealed from the elements.

“I’m amazed by what Ryan (Lepianka, the company’s creative director) and his team can do,” Mayer said.

When testing the prototypes, he said, the company took a true hands-on approach.

“Over the summer, we stood in the parking lot with hoses, spraying them from every angle,” Mayer said.

“If you can seal out water, you can seal out everything. Water gets everywhere.”

The market for kiosks has increased significantly since the pandemic, Mayer said.

During the pandemic, Lesniak said, many businesses tried to minimize face-to-face contact with customers to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

Kiosks not only allowed that, she said, they also helped businesses deal with the labor shortage by freeing employees to “take care of what really matters.”

Kiosks are more accepted by customers, she added, because they’ve become comfortable with such things as self-checkout lanes in stores.

Businesses, Mayer said, “don’t want to put a person in a parking garage or at the entrance to a stadium. So the question is, how do we make that work.”

Lepianka noted that the company’s kiosks “can be used as information kiosks, for ordering things, for wayfinding, bill paying and in self-service.”

“The kiosk industry is just growing so much,” Lesniak said, noting that the company’s kiosks work with virtually any industry, including “quick-service restaurants, cannabis dispensaries, health care, hospitality and logistics.”

Hospitals and hotels can use them to aid in checking people in, she said, while at stadiums and arenas they can be used by people ordering tickets.

Kiosks can be customized to include everything from cameras, microphones, bar code scanners and more.

They can also be made to Americans with Disabilities Act standards so anyone can use them, whether they’re in a wheelchair, are visually or hearing impaired or have other issues.

“We want to promote ADA devices on every kiosk,” Mayer said. “We don’t want anyone excluded.”

The outdoor kiosks are a new product line for Frank Mayer Kiosks and Displays, which has made a name for itself helping companies showcase their products in the marketplace.

The company was founded in 1931 by Mayer’s great-grandfather Frank Mayer, who began by painting signs in front of buildings and later moved into screen printing and more recently into creating displays for companies.

Displays are the company’s core business, Mayer said. Frank Mayer has created displays for companies that include Lego, Pittsburgh Paint, Garmin, GE and Masterbrand.

“Anywhere you shop, you’ve probably seen one of our displays and didn’t realize it,” he said.

Frank Mayer got into kiosks about 30 years ago when it created them for Atari, Lesniak noted.

The company recently rebranded itself, changing the name from Frank Mayer and Associates to Frank Mayer Kiosks and Displays to better reflect its business.

“I don’t think a lot of people know what we do here,” Lesniak said. “We thought, ‘Why not have what we do in our name?’”

Hand in hand with the name came a new website and a new sign outside the company headquarters at 1975 Wisconsin Ave.

The previous sign, Lepianka said, was “a big, concrete brutalist structure that had the logo on it.”

But when a windstorm last year blew off half the metal plates on the sign, it provided the perfect opportunity to redesign the sign.

“We just built a sign around the new logo that would cleanly and clearly tell our story,” Lepianka added.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login