Café Culture

The European grand cafés are comfortable places where neighbors can meet over an espresso, a snack, a meal, or a strong ale—day after day. From bicycles and biers to mussels and frites in a paper cone, Café Hollander integrates elements of the Benelux region’s culture.

The newest Café Hollander officially opened earlier this year in Brookfield, Wisconsin. It has a rooftop deck and lounge, a street-level patio, and overhead doors to open up the restaurant on warm days.

The café is in a new mall called the Corners of Brookfield, a 750,000-square foot premier lifestyle center built on approximately nineteen acres of land. The mall provides a neighborhood-like

The Lowland Group, which owns the café, had the primary goal of maintaining the branding they’ve established over the years at their new location. My company, Sign Effectz, Inc., has worked on numerous projects with the restaurant group dating back to the early 2000s, including the original Café Hollander, which was built in 2006.

To accomplish their goal, my shop, Sign Effectz, Inc., worked with the client on coming up with a complete sign package that included a circular building sign, a marquee sign, channel letters, and a rooftop sign.

LED Lighting

This project features one lighting technology that does it all!

In one job, incandescent, neon, and fluorescent were replaced by LED. We are big fans of this technology as it delivers improvements to the client in terms of service life and energy efficiency.

We used Principal LED Street Fighter for internal illumination and SloanLED flexbie LED tubing for the neon look and LED bulbs for the incandescent recreations.

Roof-mounted Signs

The rooftop channel letters and logo sign are mounted onto a 35-foot-wide-by-7-foot-tall steel supporting structure frame. The frame required engineering and coordination with the general contractor and a structural engineer.

The sign features a medallion-style, circular cabinet sign with the restaurant’s lion logo.

The channel letters are double-layer and feature LED bulbs that replicate incandescent lights. The lettering is justified on the left end.

We hooked up jacketed low-voltage cable with grounding through the wall to the remote power supply behind the exterior wall. We also wired jacketed low-voltage cable jump to the remote power supply in the raceway.

The illuminated letters spelling out “Hollander” are open-face, forty-eight-inch channel letters featuring an 1/8-inch-thick white acrylic lens with first-surface app vinyl film. The lighting is exposed S14 Warm White LED bulbs featuring a voltage of 1.1 / bulb – .01 amp / bulb.

We fabricated five-inch-deep returns for the open channel letters and painted them in Dark Bronze from Matthews Paint. The inside returns and baffles were painted using Modern Masters to match the client-specified PMS 144 C Orange color.

The illuminated letters spelling out “Café” are populated with white LED lighting that has a retainer-less, face-lit white acrylic with 3M™ Scotchcal™ 3630-84 Tangerine translucent vinyl with a white outline.

We also included five-inch-deep aluminum returns with them and painted them with Matthews Paint’s Dark Bronze.

The Lion cabinet sign was made from aluminum and features white LED lighting. The perimeter of the circle was painted with a suede finish, while the lion was painted in a “metal effects rust finish” with clear coat from Modern Masters.

Building-mounted Signs

These exterior signs are similar to the rooftop sign specifications. One is mounted on the south elevation of the restaurant building, and the other is featured on the west elevation.

They feature three-foot-tall aluminum-fabricated channel letters that are flush-mounted on the cedar finish wall in two locations above garage door-style entrances.Cafe2

They also feature LED chaser bulbs that have the look and feel of old-school incandescent bulbs.

The channel letters were routed with a Gerber Sabre® 408 and formed on our Accu-Bend Light channel letter bending machine.

A double layer of baffles were required. One layer supports the sockets for the LED bulbs and serves as an enclosure cover for the electrical wiring. The second layer serves as a mounted back for the letters and also finalizes the enclosure.

The channel letters are accompanied by six-foot-diameter, circular, LED-illuminated medallion cabinet signs. We used laser-cut steel with a patina finish. The cabinets feature a vinyl overlay and LED tube lighting that replicates the look of neon light around the perimeter.

Marquee Sign

The marquee sign is mounted flush to an exterior wall and is internally illuminated with a face that is laser-cut steel with a patina finish and vinyl overlay.

Tube light around the perimeter illuminates the sign’s shape. The perimeter also includes LED chaser bulbs that represent incandescent bulbs. However the lights don’t chase—they stay constant.

Many folks have shied away from incandescent bulbs because of their inferior service life. LEDs are getting better all the time, especially the soft amber glow that makes this sign special.

The aluminum cabinet contains white LEDs and an outer drum return. We painted the face ring black with a suede finish.

The “Café” letters are 3/8-inch-thick white acrylic with 1/4-inch projection from the face. There are also routed flange “Hollander” letters. They feature 3M™ Scotchcal™ 3630-84 Tangerine translucent vinyl with a white outline.


Special equipment was required to lift the rooftop sign. Most of the building is built over a parking structure, which makes the ground below hollow. Due to weight restrictions, we had to stay off the parking structure.

So we used a large 100-ton crane and extended-reach snorkel lifts to reach over the underground parking structure.


We are proud our team successfully came in on budget. We value-engineered the project to align with the level of investment the client wanted to make.

And given our implementation of the design—along with the right choice of dimensions, paints, and lighting strategy—the client enjoys the brand recognition they sought.

By Adam Brown, president of Sign Effectz, Inc. located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.