3 of a fun kindDec 30, 2020 11:45AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
If you’re interested in cryptozoology, 3D printing and dice, there’s only one place in the world, according to Google, that delivers on all three, and that’s an unassuming Newark fulfillment center.
Matt Gorton and Mike Oreszczyn each month send out interesting things to people interested in all three subjects. “We’re a bunch of nerds,” they write on one of their websites. “Just. Like. You.”
It all began in 2013 when Gorton started a 3D printing company in his Hockessin basement called Printed Solid. He expanded it into a full-time business in 2016 with an Ogletown Road store. Oreszczyn came in to buy a printer and started working for Gorton to pay it off.
Maker Box, which sends out monthly packages of 3D printing filaments to subscribers, was founded in 2016 by college students Nick Moretto and Kevin Naughton. Printed Solid bought it in 2018, and Gorton sold the store in 2019 but kept the box.
In 2019, Gorton and Oreszczyn created Pips Mountain for dice, and in 2020 they bought Cryptid Crate. “A cryptid is an animal that has yet to be recognized by the scientific community, i.e. Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Mothman, Jersey Devil, Nessie, UFOs, aliens, ghosts and many more,” they explain.
“It’s really exciting to see something that I started in my basement be global,” Gorton said.
“All these wild things that people would not buy on their own,” Oreszczyn said.
The ancestor of subscription boxes is the Book of the Month Club, which in 1926 started sending the same book every month out to every subscriber. It quickly got competition from the Literary Guild.
The idea spread to other products, like Harry and David’s Fruit of the Month in 1938. And in the early 2010s, Birchbox became famous with a selection of beauty products. Ditto for the Dollar Shave Club and shaving and BlueApron and cooking. Mostly, subscription boxes select samples in their sector, which is called curation. Subscribers can enjoy the variety or buy more of their favorites.
In 2018, Ashwin Ramasamy, founder of an e-commerce analytics company called PipeCandy, estimated there were 7,000 subscription boxes, mostly in the U.S. That’s enough to support a trade association and multiple conventions, conferences and events, but very tiny in grand scheme of retail. “Subscription commerce companies focus on products and services that are supposed to satiate the craving for experiences and a sense of well-being,” he concluded in a post on Entreprener.com.
Gorton grew up in New York, started working for W.L. Gore as an engineer in Arizona and moved to Delaware to be closer to family.
Oreszczyn was born in New York City, moved to Delaware when he was 3 months old and moved multiple times, in and out of Delaware. “Somehow I keep ending back in Delaware,” he said. He lives in Edgemoor and works for a printing company.
Working in their free time, they’ve shipped 40,000 subscription boxes, costing $17 to $40 a month. That’s lot of 3D printing material, swag, clothing, stickers, books, décor, figurines, dice and candy.
Maker Box was the first 3D subscription box, Gorton said, but now faces many competitors. There are lots of dice boxes, too, but their Cryptid Crate is the only one featuring cryptozoology and the paranormal. They’re online at https://boxmountainllc.com for Maker Box, with links to the other two; www.pipsmountain.com; and cryptid-crate.cratejoy.com. Each site has Facebook and Instagram pages.
Inside the Maker Box
The most popular boxes of Gorton and Oreszczyn’s boxes are the Maker Boxes for 3D hobbyists – about 1,300 a month. Some components are basic 3D materials like PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Some are costly materials, like filaments filled with bronze, glow-in-the-dark stuff and sparkles. Some are just “my favorite filament of the month,” Gorton told Joel Telling, the 3D Printing Nerd, in a very watchable Facebook video called “How a Maker Box Is Made at Printed Solid.” Examples include marble, wood-fill and Proto Pasta Glitter Flake.
They break big spools of filaments into samples running about 16.5 meters that buyers can try out with their instructions on the optimal speed and temperature for the printer. The boxes might have manufacturers’ discounts on larger orders that could cover the cost of the box, Gorton said in the video.
Maker Box’s Basic plan includes four samples from four manufacturers. The Easy plan includes four colors from the same manufacturer. And the Everything plan combines them both.
“Very much worth the few bucks just to see and try the different types of filament,” Bryan Fox wrote in a review on the site that echoes the business model.
Inside Cryptid Crate
For Cryptid Crate, they generally pick a monthly theme and allow creativity to run rampant with collectibles, clothing, books, films and other themed items. Boxes have included masks, socks, pennants, umbrellas and dice, all with creature features. One of the odder items among all these odd items was a Emergency Bigfoot Noisemaker, allegedly featuring the Northwest monster howling, snorting, roaring and groaning. “You know, all the noises Bigfoot is known for,” the site says.
They sell two Cryptid Crates: the Original and Lite (about half the contents). “It’s always a fun mix of interesting items,” Sarah B wrote on the site. “It’s one of the few things I look forward to anymore.”
They’ve grown the cryptozoology business to about 350 subscribers, which gives them enough scale to commission exclusive content, including coins, figurines and books. The commissioned books are all fiction, they said. How many facts are there in cryptozoology anyway? More than you think: There are 200 pages of encounters in “Beyond The Fray: Paramalgamation,” part of the September box.
Like the stars of “The X-Files,” they diverge on their beliefs in cryptozoology.
“As an engineer, I know that many are well-documented not to be real,” Gorton said.
“I’m more Mulder,” Oreszczyn said. “I tend to have an overactive imagination.”
Inside Pips Mountain
Pips Mountain has about 20 subscribers, and they’re grabbing attention in a crowded space by producing the boxes like an Advent calendar, with instructions to open only one paper pouch a day. Nice idea, but “a lot of customers don’t have the patience,” Oreszczyn said, with their unboxing photos showing they couldn’t resist that gratification of seeing their latest acquisitions.
To most people, dice have six sides, but “normal” sets for gamers (and Oreszczyn was using air quotes here) have seven polyhedral dice: four sides, six sides, eight sides, 10 sides, percentile (10 sides with percentages on them), 12 sides and 20 sides.
They promise a matching set in each box and there won’t be “any boring, white opaque dice. All the dice will be pretty. Pip insists on only shiny math rocks. So expect: marble, translucent glitter, pearl swirl, opalescence, galaxy, jade, layered, iridescent, luminous, snowglobe, vampire, etc.”
“I love dice,” Oreszczyn said, “but dice hate me.” By that, he means he’s known to roll poorly. He’s been a fan of role playing games since the early 1980s, with his well-worn dice to show for it. He also used to sell custom dice. “I always have dice near me. Dice in my car. Dice in my pockets.”
Just not at the time of the interview. No dice.
Photos courtesy of Matt Gorton