In the summer of 2017, modbox moved into a 1940s Gulf gas station. That same summer, our fabricator for the past three years went out of business. It took a couple months, but we found a new fabricator that was willing to both fabricate and powder coat. In January 2018, we placed a purchase order for a second fabrication run. Based on the time required to powder coat the curbside mailbox to our high quality standards, the cost of powder coating more than doubled!
With the past experience of other fabricators “no quoting” due to the effort required to powder coat the curbside modbox, it was not likely we would find another fabricator. If we passed the higher cost on to customers, the final price for a solid curbside would have been $259 and the two-tone would approach $300! At these price points, I thought we would likely price ourselves out of business. We had a difficult decision to make, invest in powder coating, or stop making modboxes! We chose to start powder coating!
We identified multiple sources for powder coating equipment and placed an order on January 31, 2018, with a fabricator that could deliver in 60 days (some quoted delivery more than five months out). The equipment was delivered on March 28, 2018. Oh yes, we have to build the booth and oven. It reminded me of the erector set I got for Christmas one year with over 2,000 pieces!!
While we waited for the equipment to arrive I started looking into the possibility of powder coating in our cool 1940s gas station. Unfortunately the zoning would not allow a light industrial operation. Also, to operate a powder containment booth and industrial oven, National/City code requires the building to have a sprinkler system PLUS a sprinkler head located inside the booth and oven. Time to look for a new location!
We found a location and signed the lease by April 23, 2018. We hired an Architect and Engineer for the warehouse fit-up. Raleigh is experiencing a building boom, so it took a while to get the final plans. The building permits were issued on August 17, 2018. Yes, over three months later.
Now the fun begins. We received a fit-up quote from the general contractor for the building. It seemed high, so I sought quotes direct from the trades. I ended up performing the general contractor function and cut the cost in half! Acting as the general contractor, the work was completed on September 10, 2018, less than four weeks after the permits were issued! Yay!!
Yes, it was a nine month journey, but modbox USA is alive and well!
Some of you may be wondering how we were able to powder coat and thus stay in business during the nine months it took to buy equipment, find a new location, and up-fit the warehouse space. It was through the generosity of Johnny Stanley who is the owner of Top Coat! Johnny is good friends with Red Frasier who ran the powder coating operation at Hi-Tech (fabricator that went out of business). Johnny allowed Red and I to use his powder coating equipment on weekends at no charge. I simply asked that I pay Red for his assistance/expertise. On multiple occasions Brian Adcock (shown in photo below) also helped out. I’ll be forever grateful to Johnny and Red!