O'Toole Office Supply

Jen Tranel works on an embroidery order Friday at O’Toole Office Supply in Dubuque.

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-state area. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Dyersville, Iowa.

One longtime Dubuque business is making sure the legacy of another lives on.

O’Toole Office Supply, located at 1033 Main St., purchased The Sign Makers on Jan. 1. The move was precipitated by the retirement of Ralph “Cliff” Elley and his wife, Joanne.

The couple opened The Sign Makers in December 1983 and continued to operate the business in downtown Dubuque for 35 years. Most recently, the business was located at 1365 Jackson St.

True to its name, The Sign Makers specialized in making signs for buildings, businesses and vehicles. The operation also made items including nametags and desk nameplates.

One of the first customers at the sign company was TJ O’Toole, owner of O’Toole Office Supply. The owners of the two companies maintained a business relationship — and ultimately formed a friendship — in the decades that followed.

When O’Toole caught wind of the Elleys’ retirement, he knew he needed to do something.

“They were pretty much going to shut her down, and I knew I didn’t want to see that business disappear,” he said. “I didn’t want to let that happen.”

O’Toole said his purchase of The Sign Makers made business sense, too. A fixture in Dubuque since the 1940s, O’Toole Office Supply sells paper, furniture, ink and toner and a wide range of other office supplies.

“The two businesses are a marriage made in heaven,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole Office Supply is in the process of moving equipment from The Sign Makers to its location at 1033 Main St. Services previously provided under The Sign Makers name will now be under the umbrella of O’Toole Office Supply.

Former Sign Makers employee Jen Tranel now works at O’Toole Office Supply, joining the owner and his longtime employee, Sandy Ansel.

The Elleys, meanwhile, plan to travel and dedicate more time to family in their retirement. They can rest easy knowing that their business now is in O’Toole’s hands.

“We had no qualms at all about it,” said Joanne. “It was like selling it to a family member.”

O’Toole Office Supply can be reached at 563-556-7074.


About seven years ago, Briget Featherston combined her love for animals with her entrepreneurial spirit when she opened a dog grooming business called Briley.

Now she is preparing to take her venture to the next level.

Crews will soon will break ground on a new facility on 15th Ave. SE in Dyersville, Iowa. Briley will begin operating out of that location at some point this summer, Featherston said.

Briley combines the first names of Briget and her first daughter, Tennley, who now pitches in at the business by playing with the dogs.

Featherston began operating the business out of her Dyersville home in 2012.

She later moved the business to a structure on her father’s property, located on Olde Castle Road.

In addition to grooming services, Briley now provides daycare and boarding for dogs.

Featherston believes her genuine love for animals sets her business apart from the rest of the pack.

“Some places, they’ll just open the door and let the dogs run around on their own,” she said. “We’re very hands-on. We love to socialize with the dogs and play with them and give them lots of attention.”

Featherston said she is the lone worker at Briley, but she hopes to add at least three part-time workers once the business moves into its new location.

The business will continue operating out of its current location until the new one is constructed.

Briley can be reached at 563-599-6348.


A leading health care organization with an extensive local presence has changed its name.

Mercy Health Network this month became MercyOne.

MercyOne President and CEO Bob Ritz last week visited Dubuque to celebrate the new moniker and what it represents.

“This is the first time in our 22-year history where we have reached the point where we publicly have one identity, one name and one symbol,” said Ritz, during a visit to MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center.

The rebranding effort has been in the works for two years and Ritz said it will take three years to complete the implementation of the name change. This effort will include everything from changing signs on buildings to replacing the name badges of employees.

MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center President Kay Takes said the new name should create clarity and benefit patients.

“It has not always been easy for the consumer or members of the public to know who was a part of Mercy,” she said. “Now people will know which organizations are part of the same system and the same family.”

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