YOU’VE GOT MAIL—BOXES!
Parent's tool shed
is first headquarters for this $6 million a year mailbox business!
By Stan Roberts
|Sheri Corsetti heads up sales for the Beautiful Mailbox Company. The business is forecasting sales of $10 million in the next five years. In the beginning, the company created one of a kind mailboxes but sales soared when they targeted residential communities and condo developments that required hundreds of uniform mailboxes, street signs, address plaques and trash receptacles.
One morning in 1987, David Valancy presented his future son-in-law with an idea for a business venture. He held up a 14-inch cedar mailbox saved from a business that Valancy once had owned. “Replicate this mailbox and you’ll make a million bucks,” he assured his daughter Sheri’s fiancé, Andy Corsetti.
Corsetti, intrigued with the idea, replicated the mailbox and started manufacturing them from a tool shed behind his parents’ house. Valancy, it turned out, was right about everything—with one exception: Corsetti made $6 million, not $1 million.
Corsetti accomplished this by marketing his mailboxes—now made of durable cast aluminum—mostly to entire residential communities. At last count, his mailboxes line streets in more than 6,000 housing developments, condominiums, town houses and clusters throughout Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and North and South Carolina.
His business, aptly named Beautiful Mailbox Company, operates from a 30,000-square-foot facility in Hialeah, Florida, manufactures 2,000 styles of mailboxes and also supplies street signs, lamp posts, bollards and address plaques. It employs 40 people, including sales reps in Broward, Tampa, Vero Beach, Orlando and South Carolina.
Andy Corsetti never figured on making mailboxes. He worked at his family’s bakery, Posini, until he met David Valancy. Valancy was an unusual entrepreneur. “His business was buying businesses, running them awhile, and then selling them—at a profit, of course,” explained daughter Sheri.
One short-lived venture was mailboxes. In 1979, Valancy was strolling through an art show in Miami and spied a mailbox hand-made by an artist from rough sawn cedar with a plexi-glass window so you could see if you had mail. Valancy, impressed, bought the mailbox for $150 and, as was his style, left his card in case the artist ever wanted to sell the business.
A few months later, the artist called. Valancy bought the business for $27,000 and sold it 14 months later for $78,000. He held onto a sample mailbox, which eight years later he presented to Corsetti as a business opportunity. Corsetti scrapped together $4,000, bought a used pickup truck, materials and office supplies and began manufacturing the mailboxes from his parents’ tool shed.
Valancy offered to introduce Corsetti to some builders, but Corsetti was determined to make it on his own. He randomly cold called builders. He got the attention of Engle Builders, a well-known Miami company then starting an 80-home development, Terra Lago.
Engle’s people liked Corsetti’s mailbox. They asked Corsetti if he could draw a sailboat on it. Corsetti said, sure. “Can you supply them one at a time?” Corsetti said, sure.
This clinched the deal. Engel didn’t want to pay for 80 mailboxes up front. He wanted to buy them individually after a house was finished. Of course, this was fine with Corsetti. “He could only build them one at a time, anyway,” recalled Sheri.
Corsetti worked long hours alone from a 12-by-8-foot tool shed. “Most mornings he looked for jobs, built mailboxes in the afternoons and at night he installed them,” said Sheri. “At night he used his truck’s headlights so he could see what he was doing.”
On the heels of Terra Lago, Corsetti landed jobs for other major builders such as Zuckerman Homes. He posted first-year sales of $50,000 and continued expanding gradually. In 1995 he moved into a 3,000-square-foot building in Davie and hired off-duty firemen to help with installations. That year, Sheri left Channel 10, the ABC affiliate in Miami, to help her husband manage the business.
This freed Corsetti to focus on developing new products and styles. For example, he switched from cedar mailboxes to cast aluminum. “Wooden posts were getting damaged by weed cutters,” he recalled.
Corsetti found another receptive market—communities that needed old and worn mailboxes replaced. He called on homeowner associations and replaced mailboxes for entire, established communities such as Weston Hills Country Club and Stoneybrook Golf and Country Club, Sarasota—quarter million dollar jobs.
This can get tricky, he discovered. For example, while preparing to change mailboxes at a South Carolina community, he suddenly was ordered to stop. “They discovered nests of an endangered species of bats,” said Corsetti. “The old mailboxes had to be removed—with the nests intact.”
By 1999 the company reached a milestone—sales of $1 million—and kept growing: $2.5 million in 2004; $3.5 million in 2005; and $6 million in 2005. •