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Global Recognition celebrating 60 years in business

Over the years, the company has specialized in many different things

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August 23, 2023

GREEN BAY – Global Recognition, located at 980 Velp Ave. in Green Bay, started as a bowling and supply company and, through the years, has morphed into what its name suggests – a global company offering a variety of products and services.

Celebrating 60 years in business this year, Global has become a popular source for recognition awards, screen printing and embroidered apparel, laser engravings, etching, custom framing, award gifts, promotional products and more.

How it began
The story behind how Global got its start has a long path of history.

Former Owner John Keegan, now 73, has lived his entire life in the Green Bay area.

“I worked for my father (Don) when he had the company,” he said. “My dad was from Madison but moved up here and started off by owning a few taverns.”

Eventually, Keegan said, his father got into business with George Ziegelbauer, who at the time also owned Triangle Distributing.

Together, the two ran Bowling Pin Service – which specialized in bowling balls/shirts, trophies and refurbishing pins. 

“My dad came up with the idea of refurbishing the bowling pins by replacing the plastic that came loose,” John said. “They’d cut off the plastic, patch it all in and redip it in clear lacquer and off they’d go. Back then, a set of 10 pins was like $75, so it made sense to refurbish them.”

It went over well, Keegan said, and “we were (selling refurbished pins throughout) most of Wisconsin.”

Keegan said the bowling pin refurbishing side of the business was in the lower level of a building located at 2210 Main Street in Green Bay. 

 The showroom as it appeared in 1984. Submitted Photo

“The upper part of the building belonged to Roger Nelson, who owned Nelson Trophy and Bowling,” he said. “George was in business with Roger, too.”

Keegan said after Nelson passed away unexpectedly, Ziegelbauer asked his dad for help – a decision that eventually led to the Keegan family taking ownership of the building. 

“That was 1963,” he said. “They set the price, but my dad wanted to help run the business for a bit before deciding whether to buy it, which he eventually did.”

After assuming ownership, Keegan said his father changed the name to Green Bay Trophy and Bowling.

“He had two or three employees,” he said. “One guy did the engravings, they sold bowling balls, trophies and shirts and eventually expanded into billiard services, bowling lane refinishing and redoing billiard tables. That’s how everything developed.” 

From there, Keegan said the business branched out again and started offering imprinting- services – for bowling, softball uniforms, bar shirts, etc.

“My dad bought some equipment and hauled it back to the building,” he said. “That first week after we got things set up, we completed like nine orders in one day. We were one of the first people to start printing on other things, too. It took off like a house on fire.”

At the time, Keegan said, Van Boxel’s Bar – a local establishment on Main Street in Green Bay, displayed a screen-printed sample jacket to gauge interest.

“It was one of those nylon jackets with a cotton lining we had screen printing on,” he said. “Before you knew it, he came back to us and said, ‘We’ll take 120 of them.’ We couldn’t believe it.”

As one can expect, things took off from there.

Building the business
The business’s current owner – Art Gage – grew up in De Pere, the baby of six children.

“My mom’s side of the family owned Reinhold Sign Service,” he said. “Anytime I wasn’t in school, I was helping in the sign business. It was destined that I was going to be in the business when I was older.”

Gage said because Reinhold wanted out of the screen printing sector in the 1980s, Keegan came to look at the equipment for possible purchase.

“My name came up as a possible employee for John,” Gage said. “I’m not sure it was the most popular decision at the time, but I left the family business and joined John – that was the spring of 1986 when I was 19 years old.”

So, as one can imagine, Gage’s life took a different-than-expected turn.

This photo, taken in 1984, shows what the building looked like in the early days at 980 Velp Ave. in Green Bay. Submitted Photo

Working at Green Bay Trophy and Bowling – which changed its name to Global Recognition in 1988 – for almost 40 years, Gage said he’s continued to learn more about the business and add ideas.

“John was always great at letting me have free reign to grow things,” he said. “If you want to make more money in business, you better learn how to do more and do better at what you do. My advice to others is to learn how to do more, and if it doesn’t work out, figure out why.”

Gage said one of the reasons the name was changed to Global Recognition is for that reason – “it’s truly a global company now.”

“We deliver to street addresses in countries around the world I can’t even pronounce,” he said. “We can ship to a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to downtown Moscow (Russia). We couldn’t do it without today’s shipping methods. The majority of where we ship is in the United States, but more and more companies are finding us.”

Gage said he’s been through it all at Global – during the lean times and the good ones.

“Some things work and others don’t,” he said. “When times were good, I might have been here seven days a week doing as much as I could. But when the economy tanks, we’re one of the first businesses that might get hurt from that.”

Transition of ownership, offerings
In 2013, Keegan said he and his wife bought a home in Florida for wintering, which prompted thoughts about what was next.

“Along with another business partner, I bought out John in 2015,” Gage said. “Then, I bought out my business partner in the spring of 2021. John had also sold me the building.”

Gage said Global has transitioned out of the trophy business – which were popular years ago.

“Like any industry, you have to change with the times,” he said. “We had a big display of trophies for many years, but it took up a lot of inventory. Last year, we took a lot of pieces out and shipped them to other people who could use them – how many trophies does a person need?”

Gage said Global’s niche is now focused on the corporate world.

The original location of Green Bay Trophy (now known as Global Recognition) was 2210 Main Street in Green Bay. Submitted Photo

“We can be their one-stop shop,” he said. “We import our crystal they use for awards and get some decent pricing on that. All of the work with our engraving and embroidering is done in-house here.”

Gage said one area he’d like to expand at Global is the framing sector.

“People don’t really know us for that,” he said. “But, you can bring in your wedding picture and we can frame it – we’re not that expensive. We do all the engraving and put the frame together here.”

As mentioned, Global does all its work onsite in 16,500 square feet of space, which includes about a 2,200-square-foot retail showroom.

For more information on Global Recognition, visit

Back the Blue
Through the years, Global has been supportive of local law enforcement through its “Back the Blue” initiative.

“Several years ago, we started the program,” Nicole Grieger, director of business development at Global, said. “We began conversations after a Green Bay Police Department officer had gotten stabbed. A K-9 dog (named) Pyro had also gotten stabbed. Right away, the support was amazing. People showed their support by wearing Back the Blue apparel.”

Grieger said Global has shipped Back the Blue apparel to 48 of the 50 states.

“We had stacks of t-shirts going out of this building,” she said. “It was our way to help bring the community together.”

Through the community’s support of Global’s Back The Blue apparel, Grieger said the company donated more than $4,200 to local law enforcement agencies, which included:

 $1,405 to Green Bay Police Foundation for tactical vests and helmets$1,500 to Brown County Sheriff’s Office to fund the 2016 Citizen Police Academy$1,000 to Ashwaubenon Public Safety K-9 Program $150 to Fraternal Order of Police$150 to Wisconsin C.O.P.S., which assists families of police officers killed in the line of duty

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