New Hampshire man’s mailbox invention seen as a lifesaver
HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) — Neal Dwelley was trying to clear snow around his mailbox three years ago when a car flew by and nearly hit him.
Unnerved, he went online to look for devices that could slide his mailbox to the edge of the snowbank so he could avoid putting himself in danger while using his snowblower. He said he found none, but there were plenty of reports of people around the country being hit by cars while clearing snow around their mailbox.
“I have 10 newspaper articles of people being killed doing that,” said Dwelley. It was shortly after that he and his partner Ivan Stanek, of Hampton Falls, began work on the Slide Me Out mailbox bracket, which they patented last year and have since begun selling online.
Mailboxes can be attached to the bracket, made with PVC, and installed so that the mailbox can slide forward 11 inches, then pushed back. Dwelley and Stanek first one sold at the Deerfield Fair last year and they recently began selling through Amazon.
Stanek, the craftsman who brought Dwelley’s idea to life, produced 11 prototypes of the Slide Me Out after hearing Dwelley talk about almost being hit by the car. Dwelley said the prototypes underwent extensive troubleshooting to make sure the bracket slid comfortably in both directions and could withstand extreme cold and heat. The units sell for $79.99, which Dwelley said is reasonable given that people spend hundreds of dollars on nice mailboxes.
The Slide Me Out also had good feedback from members of the postal service. Dwelley and Stanek talked to 53 postal workers and three post masters for their product, and they were told their bracket would improve efficiency.
“They have a lot of workplace injuries, reaching out and twisting (arms), back spasms,” said Dwelley. “Now, if they drive up and they have a little hook, they can just reach out and pull the box.”
Other products exist to assist people in reaching their mail, but Stanek said theirs is the only one that allows the entire mailbox to slide back and forth.
Dwelley said he keeps in mind a fable his father told once told him about two shoe salesmen who visit a Pacific Island in 1900. One reports back to his company that there is no opportunity to sell shoes since no one wears them. The other salesperson reports back that there is tremendous opportunity since no one wears shoes.
“That’s how I see the Slide Me Out mailbox bracket,” said Dwelley. “I think it’s an unlimited market right now.”
Stanek’s passion for craftsmanship and entrepreneurship is fueled by his past experience escaping from communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s with his daughter. His home is filled with different types artwork and pieces he created, and one wall is covered with paintings by his father who was prevented by the communist government from attending a prestigious art school in France.
Stanek has prior experience with patents, having gotten one years ago for a packaging design with his cousin. He said he tries to keep an eye out for ideas every day, and that even something mundane as spilling coffee on the ground can lead to the concept for a new invention.
“You have to be aware,” said Stanek. “Ideas are born every day.”
Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, http://www.fosters.com