The Maker’s Row team took a trip to Cross Country Box to learn more about packaging from this family-run facility. We discovered the history of the factory, various kinds of boxes, and quite a few notable projects.
At a glance
- » Specialties:
- › Product packaging: apparel, shoe, games, perfume, medical, food + beverage
- › Types of boxes: stayed or set up boxes, rigid boxes, and folding boxes
- › Additional features: inner foam, foil stamping, embossed boxes with paper, closures (hinged, magnetic, handles)
- » Location: East Orange, NJ
- » Ideal client: Anyone – Beginners to big brands looking for packaging options
- » Turnaround time: 2-3 weeks
- » Maker’s Row profile: https://makersrow.com/cross-country-box-company-inc
- » Fun fact #1: The building is exactly on the border of East Orange and New Brunswick, so half of the building is in East Orange and the other half is in New Brunswick.
Starting from scratch
Irene and Dan met while completing their respective master’s degrees at Rutgers University (Dan, in Mechanical Engineering and Irene, in Marketing). After graduation, they relocated to Israel where Dan had grown up. A few years later, they decided to resettle in the U.S. and try a hand running their own business.
In 2003, Dan and Irene bought Cross Country Box from an older gentleman, who unfortunately passed away during negotiations. Without being able to learn from the former owner, Dan and Irene had to learn the tricks of the trade themselves with no prior manufacturing experience.When they took over the company, they changed part of its name but kept “Cross Country” in honor of its former owner (the original name was Cross Country Die Cutting Services. Fun fact #2: The owner didn’t actually offer die cutting services!).
Through grit, they picked up the business quickly and soon expanded their capabilities by moving into a larger space and purchasing new equipment. Growing a manufacturing business is tough work, requiring persistence and creativity. They also sought to diversify production by pursuing customers seeking both high- and low-end packaging options, ranging from established brands to recently launched startups. Luckily, being in close proximity to New York City has exposed Cross Country to many fashion brands. Dan and Irene are proud to run a family business.
Cross Country is on top of the eco-movement; all of their packaging is made of post-recycled, recyclable materials. They try to be as green as possible by recycling their own waste, and they encourage customers to be green as well. They view these practices as part of their duty as global citizens – “integrity is very important to us.”
While Cross Country is a modern and innovative factory, they also value machine maintenance and make an effort to continue using old machinery. One machine that still runs particularly well is a Kluge Letterpress Printer that Dan estimates to be over 60 years old.
Any shape or size
Many startup brands come to Cross Country with a rough idea of what type of packaging they’d like to use, based on other product packaging they’ve seen or inspiration they’ve found online. Together with their clients, Dan and Irene talk through ideas and assemble samples before moving into tooling and production stages.
Before full-run production, the clients and Cross Country will agree on an order size. Although the company has no minimums, it is cost beneficial to produce at least 500 boxes to make the cost of setup, take down, and tooling worthwhile. One of the big benefits of working with Cross Country is that small brands lacking storage space can keep their packaging at the factory, which will send out packaging in smaller volumes as needed.
Dan and Irene have noticed a trend in more established brands reshoring their packaging production after facing bad experiences with overseas manufacturers – such as high shipping costs, production errors, and slower turnaround. There aren’t many domestic box manufacturers around, so many of them come to Cross Country for help.
Regardless of their size, small startups and established brands alike appreciate Cross Country’s open channel of communication – they are quick to hop on calls, schedule meetings, and respond via email to answer questions and concerns.
As we chatted about various clients and products, Irene mentioned that she loves working with famous brands (think Chanel, Bvlgari, and Pepsi among others) and gets especially excited about seeing their packaging in situ. A particularly memorable story from Dan was when he was rushing through Newark Airport and saw one of their recently produced cigar boxes on display in a duty-free store.
Dan is also proud of Cross Country’s spin on iPhone packaging. In 2007, the original iPhone was celebrated as revolutionary in the design and packaging worlds. Many brands started requesting similar styles for their own packaging. iPhone packaging is made overseas and very costly to develop. To appeal to their customers, Cross Country came up with their own take on a more affordable version and since then, have continued to receive roughly 1 inquiry per week regarding this style.
New Year’s ambitions
As Cross Country looks ahead, they see opportunity in diversifying their production and marketing efforts. In addition to using Maker’s Row, Irene has visited trade shows, tried email campaigns, and used cold calling (didn’t work out for them) to gain new business. Many of their clients come through referrals and word of mouth. (Fun fact #3: Maker’s Row factory Modern Vice uses Cross Country packaging for their own label!)
Some of the company’s goals for 2016 include reaching bigger markets, increasing their market share in existing markets, and investing in new equipment to make even more high-end boxes. We’re excited to follow their journey!
Have you considered packaging?
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