Fishermen who ply the waters of Lake Michigan, other lakes and rivers or the great blue ocean should be familiar with products bearing the Dotline name. Dotline is the registered trade name given products made by Mengo Industries Inc. The Kenosha-based company has been manufacturing fishing, tackle and marine products since 1966..
Mengo sells more than 300 of its own products. The company is best known for its nets, used for landing fish that are too big to reach down and grab. The Dotline nets are made in many different sizes and shapes, and the net bags are offered in a variety of materials.
Most of the Dotline fishing-related products are sold through large national retailers such as Wal-Mart, Bass Pro, Cabella's and Gander Mountain. The company's marine products are sold through retailers such as Overton's and West Marine.
Most of the newer Dotline products are fishing-related. Its lure retriever, a long pole with a corkscrew-shaped tip, is designed to help fishermen retrieve lures that have become stuck on logs or in weed beds, said Gerald Mengo, the company's president.
"The idea came to us from one of our buyers," he said. "They gave us the information, the quantity they wanted and the price they were looking for. Now we have all of our accounts using that product."
The idea for Dotline's Push-N-Glide Pole, used to propel boaters in marsh and swamp conditions, also came from a customer. The pole's collapsible bottom enables a boater to push off from a marshy area without sinking into it, Mengo said. When the pole is retracted, the collapsible foot design prevents it from snagging onto underwater vegetation.
Many of the new Dotline products and product modifications come from customer feedback, Mengo said.
"We rely on our reps for new and interesting product ideas," he said. "We question them about it every year. And we're in constant talks with our customer base. Some of them have helped in developing new products."
The company also recently introduced a line of fishing nets with rubber bags attached to them, Mengo said. The bags are completely hook-proof, he said, and are made in a wide variety of sizes. The bags were introduced in 2005, but sales have increased substantially this year, Mengo said.
Mengo also manufactures fishing downriggers, used for holding multiple fishing poles. Many of thee downriggers are used on Lake Michigan charter fishing boats.
Other Dotline products include collapsible ladders for boats, gaff hooks and boat hooks. Mengo also does some private-label manufacturing for original equipment manufacturers that use Dotline equipment on their boats.
Mengo has 23 employees in its Kenosha headquarters, where it manufactures 70 to 75 percent of the goods it sells. The remaining 25 to 30 percent of its products are imported as final assemblies from China. The company imports about 50 percent of its raw products and semi-assembled goods from China as well, Mengo said.
"All of our net bags are hand tied, which is labor intensive," Mengo said. "In 1966, when we started, we were buying from Japan. As their economy lifted, they moved (the production) to Korea, then to Taiwan, then to China. Vietnam will be next."
The company has been doing business with one of its Chinese suppliers for about 20 years, Mengo said. The company has had very positive experiences with quality, price and on-time delivery from China.
Mengo Industries and its Dotline brand were started by Mengo's father, Alfred Mengo Sr., after he purchased a fishing tackle goods company in the Chicago area. Gerald Mengo and his two brothers were offered a chance to work in the company, which was moved to Silver Lake, about 18 miles west of Kenosha. There, the family began manufacturing fishing nets, downriggers, gaff hooks and rod cases.
The company has moved several times throughout the years. Its current location is at 4611 Green Bay Road in Kenosha. The facility has been expanded and renovated several times and now has about 90,000 square feet of space.
In 1975, Dotline began manufacturing ladders and plastic accessories for residential above-ground swimming pools. Although it was outside of the company's niche expertise, Dotline and Mengo Industries was able to greatly expand, reaching a peak of 41 employees.
However, Mengo Industries shuttered its pool accessories division in 2004 after losing two court cases. In those cases, a diving accident victim sued the manufacturers of the deck, swimming pool and all related accessories, Mengo said.
"When the pool industry got hit by attorneys, that was what killed us," Mengo said. "We had two lawsuits in one year. The ladder did not cause the accident but we (the manufacturers of related products) all got sued."
Because it closed the pool accessories division, Mengo Industries experienced 30 percent lower revenues in 2004 and 2005. However, 2006 has brought a return to growth for the company, which has increased its revenues by about 6 percent this year.
The company is considering two new products for its 2007 season, said Mengo, who expects 15 to 20 percent revenue growth and a need to hire two to three more employees.
Because large customers like Wal-Mart, Cabella's and Gander Mountain require quick delivery, Mengo Industries will build large quantities of goods beginning in October and November, which it stores for its busy months
"That's how we built our business – through service," he said. "To make it happen, your inventory is in excess dollars."