When Jonny Videl shipped a box of Jacksonville novelties to a friend deployed to Iraq, he wasn’t planning on building a business. He merely wanted to send a bit of home abroad. That package sparked enough requests to lead Videl to a niche market: Jacksonville. Now Jacksonville in a Box isn’t limited to just Videl’s friends and family. Large and small boxes are available for purchase from a link on the company’s Facebook page or on their brand new website. Small boxes have six local items and sell for $35. The large box contains twelve items and sells for $55. Orders destined for the U.S. and to military personnel ship free.
So, can the Jacksonville experience be contained in a 13 by 10 inch box? Videl hand-picked items like koozies from his favorite craft breweries, Intuition Ale Works and Bold City Brewery, to help achieve just that. New to the box is an apt poster featuring a heart-shaped map of Jacksonville. Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q was first opened in Jax in 1949 and boasts a generous 20 oz bottle of Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce in the box. And the Sweet Pete’s Saltwater Taffy, packaged in the candy factory’s signature clear box, nestled to a yellow foam Jacksonville Suns finger does conjure images of Bragan Field and Hemming Park. Other items included in the boxes are Alligator Bob’s Jerky, a Jacksonville Armada magnet, Papa John’s Peanuts, Jacksonville Jaguar pennants, Peterbrooke Chocolate and vintage Jax postcards.
“The idea is to spread Jacksonville to anyone who wants it,” said Videl. At first, Videl worked out of his home. When demand became more than a residential garage could handle, he knew he had to find a serious means of production. In the spirt of community, Videl found a local solution in The Arc Jacksonville. The Arc is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be as active as possible in the community. Provided services include pre-employment classes, aid with job searches, and training in some work responsibilities. Companies such as Walmart, EverBank and Baptist Health partner with The Arc for employment opportunities.
Individuals enrolled in the Triumph Industries Day Program are the new packers of Jacksonville in a Box. Dominic Linton, who has a background in shipping titanium, became production manager of The Arc in March of 2015. He stumbled across The Arc’s website, much like Videl, and soon after joined the staff. Linton coached Renee and Amber, two members of the Day Program, through arranging the pilot large box on the morning of November 23, 2015. The foam finger needed some coaxing and the Papa John’s Cotton Candy had to be placed so the FreshJax Grill Master Burger Seasoning wouldn’t crush it. But, in minutes Jacksonville in a Box was in full production! After a few boxes, Renee and Amber could have packed them blindfolded. Each had her favorite item. Renee liked the Bold City and Intuition koozies, while Amber started with the Peterbrooke chocolate popcorn but soon had listed off everything on the packing table!
The completed boxes shipped later that week from the Northside location, where Linton normally works. As more orders come in both locations will participate in assembly. A self-proclaimed “proud Floridian,” Videl was rasied in Jacksonville but lived across the state before settling. Drawn back by the city’s history, hipster Riverside area, and nearby beaches he admits he could have moved, but enjoys living here. It is his sense of community that translated into the positive experience of receiving a package of hometown favorites.
The market for these boxes is ever growing, from wedding parties to realtors with out of town clients. College students and military personnel continue to receive a large number of Jacksonville in a Box orders, too. Future plans for the company include specialty boxes, like sports and region themed boxes. Videl plans to keep expanding to as many box options as possible while keeping a hometown brand and fair representation of local businesses and organizations.
Annie Carroll is a senior at the University of North Florida studying Public Relations. She is interested in a career in politics and plans to start locally in Jacksonville. Annie previously wrote for Ignite Media, a student run media bureau to cover Jacksonville’s One Spark Festival. A Florida native, Annie moved from Destin in 2014 to attend school. She cooks to relax and is beginning to learn to bake.