Special Delivery

A mailbox can do more than hold letters

it can deliver a statement, too.

Focus On Home

August 25, 2002|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff

Doesn't first-class mail deserve first-class treatment?

No longer are homeowners content with the standard black steel mailbox perched on a 4-by-4 at the end of the driveway. These days they're dressing up their address and prettying up their post boxes.

"People want to be unique," says Wayne Burwell, owner of Mailbox Factory Inc., a Kirtland, Ohio, mailbox manufacturer.

Burwell knows unique. He makes the Golfball Mailbox. For $389. It looks like a giant white golf ball sitting on a tee. Needless to say, it's become a hit. He's thinking about expanding to baseballs, soccer balls and footballs.

The best thing about having a 2-foot golf ball as a mailbox? "There's never an issue with the pizza guy finding you," he says.

Dean Regula, 39, of Phoenix has a giant fishing lure for a mailbox. It was a gift from a girlfriend last year. Now, total strangers give him compliments.

"I was waiting for someone to hit it with a bat, but nobody's messed with it yet," he says.

Home product manufacturers say novelty mailboxes have gotten much bigger in recent years as homeowners look for ways to set their property apart. Some speculate that people are even getting nostalgic for non-electronic mail, elevating the lowly mailbox in appreciation.

"It allows people who have a sense of whimsy or some other unexpressed part of their personality to let loose," says Danielle Truscott, author of The Ultimate Mailbox Book: 30 Delightful Projects to Build, Paint, Stencil, Mosaic and Otherwise Decorate (Lark Books, 2000, $17.95).

Truscott says most of her projects -- from a metal praying mantis to a Noah's ark -- can be created for about $25 in supplies. That makes it a pretty affordable way to decorate.

Jill Bosse, an artist and owner of The Polka-Dotted Zebra store in Cockeysville, sells her painted mailboxes for $89, whimsy included. Not bad for an original work of art that also happens to hold a day's worth of mail.

"I love taking things that are practical and making them artistic," she says.

Bradford McDougall, a Roland Park artist, has taken that philosophy a step further. He invests 20 to 30 hours of hand forging into his creations (they sell for $1,000 to $3,000 each), including the box with blooming iron daisies called Floral Delivery that he keeps in his front yard.

"The problem with this business is that after the first purchase, no one ever buys another," McDougall says, jokingly. "They're really indestructible."

For those who prefer live daisies around the mailbox, they might consider Bert Sandlin's creation, The Mailbox Post Planter, which contains 2 cubic feet of soil for planting and a gallon reservoir of water to keep plants moist.

A builder in Lake Bluff, Ill., Sandlin started making them last year and is confident the design will soon be distributed nationally -- at $179.95 each (www.mailboxpostplanter.com).

One added advantage of a unique mailbox design can be durability. A vandal would need a lot more than a baseball bat to take down Sandlin's dirt-filled post. Same thing for heavy-duty plastic models like the Golfball Mailbox.

"I got into the business because I was a snowplow operator," says Burwell. "I needed to put out something I couldn't destroy."

Still not convinced? Well, there's always the MailBass, the plastic mailbox that looks like a giant bass. It's the biggest selling mailbox made by Fishermen's Log of Cumming, Ga. (Of course, the runners-up are the mailboxes shaped like a grouper, a snook and a walleye).

"It gives a more welcome look to a house," says Lou Maschio-vecchio, the company's co-owner.

Just don't move next door to a fishing lure.

Sources

* The Polka-Dotted Zebra, 10717 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-683-7200

Jill Bosse's funky shop features whimsical painted mailboxes.

* www.mcmailbox.com

Showcases high-end art mailboxes by Roland Park artist Bradford McDougall.

* BoatersWorld.com

The Fishing lure mailbox is included on this Web site.

* www.mailboxdepotetc.com

The Florida Tampa Bay e-tailer carries boxes made by Fishermen's Log and many other designs.

* www.mailboxpostplanter.com

This is the site for the Mailbox Post Planter, which combines mailbox, planter and water reservoir.

* www.mailboxfactory.com

The Ohio-based company has a variety of mailboxes, including one shaped like a golf ball.

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