Fort Knox Mailbox... as solid as name...
The following is an article written by Jim Hill of the Oregonian newspaper.

Mail theft is increasing in Oregon and the West, and so are sales of the
all-steel mailboxes manufactured in Southern Oregon

    Frank Schroeder, whose small company makes heavy-duty security mailboxes, got started almost by accident after combating mail-theft and vandalism problems of his own.  While living in rural Hugo north of Grants Pass, he had grown weary of having his mail swiped and sometimes tossed into a creek. Then, Schroeder said, the perpetrators pushed him too far: "They finally took my $5 mailbox."

    He built his first mailbox in 1994.  It was basically an all-steel box with a weatherproof slot and had a door he could unlock to retrieve his mail.  At a friend's urging, Schroeder advertised his box in the local paper and soon was busy building mailboxes. As he became more involved with his mailboxes, he stopped building utility trailers, a business the former Navy Seal had developed to supplement his disability retirement pension. For his new business, Schroeder chose a name as solid as the product: Fort Knox Mailbox.  Sales of the hefty, safe-like boxes are climbing along with what the U.S. Postal Inspection Service says is a rise in mail theft in Oregon and throughout the West. "Last year, more than 30 people were arrested for mail theft in Oregon," said Inspector Robert McDonnell, public information officer in Portland. "We expect that figure to double this year."

    Schroeder, who now lives in Rogue River, and Mike Crisp, an Eagle Point friend who joined him in 1997, each produce mailboxes at their own shops.  Together, they have turned out more than 1,000. "With nearly every one, there's a horror story," Schroeder said. "I made one for a guy who had $26,000 withdrawn from his bank account based on information taken from his stolen mail." Roadside bashings Judy and Dan France of Ridgefield, Wash., who bought a Fort Knox mailbox about a year ago, were tired of the bashing their roadside mailbox had been taking.  "We had trouble with kids beating up the mailbox with bats and running over it with cars," Judy France said. She and her husband saw the Fort Knox models at the Portland Home and Garden Show a year ago and liked their design, ease of access and solidity.  "There have been no problems," she said. "We love it. The first day the carrier delivered mail to the new box, she left a note with a happy face that said, 'Nice box.' It was well worth the investment for the peace of mind."

    Crisp and Schroeder started marketing the mailboxes widely after Crisp rented a booth at the Portland home show in February 1998.  The result was a spurt of about 100 orders.  Last week, Fort Knox was back for this year's show.  This week, the company is at a home show in the Kingdome, hoping to win customers in the sprawling Seattle metro area.  The plan, said Schroeder and Crisp, is to boost production from 25 boxes a month to at least 100.  So far, most of Fort Knox's sales have been in the Grants Pass area. The company even lists a few postmasters and carriers among its customers.

    Fort Knox mailboxes, in two sizes, range in price from $249 to $339, depending on whether the buyer wants a steel post and on the type of finish applied.  The basic 10-inch box weighs 97 pounds. The 12-inch model, developed by Crisp, tips the scales at 140 pounds.  Both models are 22 inches deep and fabricated from quarter-inch steel.  "We have installed mailboxes from British Columbia to Sacramento," Schroeder said, "and have shipped them as far as Pennsylvania.  "As the business has grown, it has turned into a two-family operation.  Crisp's wife, Janet, helps out nearly full time, and his son, Michael Jr., 22, has helped refine mailbox design elements and is designing the company's Web site.  Schroeder's daughter, Stacey, 18, appeared in a company television spot, and he said his son, Jeff, 16, probably will work with the company this summer.

Schroeder said of his mailboxes:  "We encourage people to try to lift them. It's reassuring to the customer and intimidating to the vandal."


Photo by Bob Pennell

Heavy steel mailboxes are virtually vandal-proof.

By PAUL MACOMBER of the Medford Mail Tribune: July, 1998

Frank Schroeder was having problems with his mail back when he lived in Hugo.

If it wasn't stolen, it was dumped into Bummer Creek with handfuls of his neighbors' pilfered mail, he said, adding, "The last straw was when they took my $5 mailbox."

Schroeder, who was making utility trailers, decided there would be a market for a vandal- and thief-proof mailbox. His solution has turned into Fort Knox Mailbox.

He started crafting the boxes from quarter-inch steel in 1994 and sold about a hundred in the first year, mostly in the Grants Pass area. An article in the Grants Pass Daily Courier brought him another hundred orders. About 700 have been sold and he's planning an ad in Sunset magazine that's expected to bring in enough orders to move the business from home shops in Rogue River and Shady Cove to an assembly line in Eagle Point or White City. They're still scouting for a location.

Then Schroeder encountered Mike Crisp, with whom he shared a bond as former U.S. Navy Seals. Crisp served earlier, including three tours in Vietnam; as part of the Apollo 15 recovery team, Schroeder rode the space capsule back to the ship. They are also both members of the Church of Christ; Crisp is a preacher in the denomination.

"We came together about a year ago," Crispus said. "I told Frank he was sitting on a million bucks; but he likes fishing more than making money."

Crisp started making the mailboxes and selling them in the Portland area. His son, Michael Jr., 21, added some design elements that have been incorporated into the evolving design.

"We've all searched the Internet and we can't find a product anywhere out there like this," Crisp said. "It's vandal-proof, safe and beautiful."

The steel boxes have a slot under a weatherproof flange and a key lock. They're mounted on posts crafted from the same kind of durable steel.

The basic, 10-inch box weighs 97 pounds, and it's a far cry from a 97-pound weakling. It sells for $189, including installation. The larger, 12-inch model sells for $289.

"We have nearly $100 in materials in these," Crisp says. "They're all hand-built and we build them for quality."

Schroeder says it takes about 3 hours to build a box. That includes a trip to Northwest Industrial Coatings for powder coating and installation.

They've sold the mailboxes to postmasters and mail carriers _ a fair number of sales start with referrals from the post office, they say. The first installation in a neighborhood is likely to bring more, they say.

"We have installed mailboxes in front of average houses and $3 million houses," says Mike Crisp Jr. They've installed mailboxes from British Columbia to Sacramento.

Chown Hardware in Portland replaced its line of durable mailboxes with the Fort Knox Mailbox, they say, but they're really aiming for direct sales.

They've also developed cash drop-boxes that can be bolted down in stores to handle large bills or key drop boxes for car dealers. Unlike home safes, the Fort Knox boxes are weather-proof.

And they've developed pistol safes, durable lamp posts and even heavy-duty newspaper tubes.

They say they've heard no reports of mail stolen from their products.

"If it's happened, nobody told us," Schroeder said. They do have a letter from a satisfied customer in Carmichael, Calif., that begins: "I love my mailbox..."


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