These regional boxes deliver local flavors and products to your doorstep.
Over the past few years, subscription boxes have caught on like wildfire, and it’s easy to see why: a curated collection of niche products arrives at your doorstep every month or so, evoking the same sense of excitement and curiosity as unwrapping a surprise birthday gift.
For the most part, subscription boxes have been an extension of big business, whether they’re from makeup companies encouraging you to try their latest lipsticks or clothing picked for you from established designers.
Local artisans, family-owned restaurants and even whole cities and regions have started curating their own specialty subscription boxes. These subscription boxes give customers the chance to sample flavors and products from different places, an experience made even more meaningful while in-person travel is mostly on pause. A box of handcrafted items lets you reconnect with your hometown or a favorite destination without leaving home.
Here are five small businesses that have unique subscription boxes so that you can, say, sample Appalachian salt harvested from an ancient ocean or find your next favorite artist from a gallery in Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis.
Art from Tupelo, MS
Tupelo’s Caron Gallery began the My Mississippi Art Box as a way to introduce local artists to a larger, national audience and to help customers discover new mediums and imagery. The $79 quarterly subscription box comes with an original piece of artwork from one of the gallery’s artists. The pieces – which could include paintings, ceramics, mixed media and glasswork – must fit into a box, so the artists are challenged to, well, creatively think within the box.
When the subscription box trend took off a few years ago, Kim Caron, owner and founder of Caron Gallery, says she and her staff wanted to come up with an art-themed delivery service. “So we came up with the idea that the featured artist, and what they were creating, would be a secret until the boxes were shipped to subscribers.”
The boxes are limited: Only 30 are created each quarter, so they often sell out.
Appalachian Goods from Charleston, WV
At J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works, a 7th generation salt-making family harvests all-natural salt from an ancient ocean trapped beneath the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley. The result is a bright, bold salt with a slightly sweet note. (It’s so good, fans admit to snacking on the crystals). Nancy Bruns, a partner at J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works, recently launched the Appalachian Mercantile subscription to spotlight other artisan products in the region. The mercantile sells goods like goat milk soaps from Creekside Farm and specialty jams from In a Jam! (like an heirloom tomato one) that’ll take your hamburger to gourmet status.
Each $40 subscription box comes with a carefully curated selection of Appalachian artisan products like seasonal foods, crafts and home and bath items, and subscribers get a recipe and a chance to learn about the artisans. People enjoy “sending a little flavor from home,” Bruns says, often to their friends and relatives who have Appalachian roots.
Cheese from Wisconsin
Say cheese – and repeat it every month! Iconic cheese shop Fromagination, based in Madison, curates a monthly box, each with cheeses from three different Wisconsin cheesemakers, and pairs them with local provisions like artisan preserves, crackers, honey, nuts or dried fruits. “We love sharing our cheesemakers stories and selecting cheeses that might be hard to find outside of Wisconsin,” says Ken Monteleone, owner of Fromagination.
Sometimes, first-time releases are included in the boxes and the monthly collections come with themes, like those from women cheesemakers, master cheesemakers or from different regions of Wisconsin.
“No matter where you live in the United States, you can get Wisconsin cheese delivered straight to your door,” says Montelone. Three, six and 12-month subscriptions are available, starting at $250.
Quilting Blocks from Quitman, TX
Quilt shop Stitchin’ Heaven offers a “Block of the Month” subscription that allows subscribers to work through larger quilt projects at their own pace. The subscription service began in 2000 as a way for the family-owned shop in Quitman, TX (population 1,850) to connect with quilters around the world. Recipients receive the pattern, fabrics and directions so they can sew one block or section of a quilt at a time. A Facebook group for every “Block of the Month” program allows participants to share tips and progress.
“Quilts are keepsakes that can last a lifetime, and we have seen that the desire to create has definitely increased over the last few months amid the pandemic,” says Deb Luttrell, the founder of Stitchin’ Heaven.
Subscription kits range from $24.99 to $34.99 per month.
Local Goods from Oklahoma City, OK
Great cities are built on community. So, when the coronavirus shut down shops and restaurants this spring, the founders of Capitals Ice Cream in Midtown Oklahoma City got creative, coming up with a way that people could still enjoy (or be introduced to) local retailers through thoughtfully curated boxes. They launched CITYBOX, which can be a subscription service or a one-time purchase, and they’ve already sold 1,500 boxes and are expanding.
Food has been a big hit, says Layne Ferguson, one of the CITYBOX and Capitals Ice Cream founders. Take-and-bake items from local restaurants are paired with fun items from local retailers. “Food is nostalgic and gives people a taste of normalcy,” Ferguson says. “Our goal is to give people a ‘night out’ while they stay home.”
Other box examples have included a “Treat Yo’ Self” box with goods from local shops, like a DIY Bath Tea Kit from Local Lather, fun earrings from Out on a Limb, an all-purpose salve from Salt & Water, a chocolate chip cookie from Cities Ice Cream and a coffee mug from Shop Good. The Brew Box includes coffee samples from local shops.