In 2013, Jenna and Zach Duesler had just moved into a new home in Madison, Wisconsin. While they were generally excited for their new home, those feelings did not extend to their mailbox. The post was at an angle, and the metal box was close to falling off.
“It did fall off,” Zach clarifies. “It was screaming for an upgrade.”
The Dueslers wouldn’t be happy with just any new mailbox. Their next mailbox had to be sturdy enough for the near 40-degree decline at the base of their driveway and shaky soil. Unfortunately, that kind of mailbox can’t be purchased at a big box store.
“I literally went to Menards, got a bunch of cedar slat wood and started working on designing,” Zach says. “We didn’t want it to fall over.”
Designing on sloping land wasn’t a tough challenge for Zach. An architect by trade, he knows how to turn practical solutions into a beautiful design. To counteract the slope of his yard, Zach added a second post and connected the two with the cedar slats, upon which the metal box rests.
Thus the original Modernist Mailbox was born, and the neighbors noticed. Zach and Jenna received so many compliments on the mailbox that they decided to make them available for the masses.
But first, a couple tweaks. The prototype took five hours for Zach to build, which was much too long to keep up with their orders, which were in high demand. So Zach and Jenna partnered with a local company to build the orders while they process and ship the orders. The other big change was the design, which had to be convenient enough to ship across the country.
“We tweaked the modular nature of this thing so it worked better with the packaging and shipping,” Zach says. Otherwise, the design remains the same as the original.
The most interesting part of Modernist Mailboxes, according to Zach, are the customers’ stories.
“So often when we sell a mailbox, there’s almost always a story behind that,” he says. “From what happened to my mailbox I had or ‘a car ran into my mailbox’ or ‘it’s the ugliest mailbox I’ve ever had.’ We started getting pictures sent to us. Eventually I said, let’s just put these on the website.”
Those pictures now make up the Ugly Mailbox Wall of Shame, where customers’ photos of their old mailboxes are on display for visitors to laugh at.
“I really love having a small business and a passion project to share with my wife,” Zach says. “It’s just a lot of fun for the both of us.”