Finding The Key

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Finding The Key

December 31, 2001 - 20:00


In the last 111 years, that company philosophy has not changed a bit and Mason Box still prides itself on creating award-winning boxes. That quality product has Mason Box's clients, some of the biggest names in the retail business, coming back for more.



The 111-year-old Mason Box Co., a rigid box plant based in North Attleboro, Mass., has tailored itself to fit the changing needs of the dwindling rigid box market.

Opening A Door

In 1891, Frank Mason was working at another Massachusetts box plant, Babcox Box, when he and his brother Charles decided to start their own business. The brothers opened the Mason Box Co. in their family barn.

In the 1920s, after the company had changed ownership, Donner Mason (no relation to Frank or Charles) started working at the company as a salesman.

"The owners thought it was good to have someone named Mason selling for them so that's how he got hired," says current Mason Box President Hugh Mason, grandson of Donner.

Mason Box's North Attleboro plant includes part of the company's original structure, a 111-year-old family barn.
Mason Box's North Attleboro plant includes part of the company's original structure, a 111-year-old family barn.

Hugh's father Robert Mason began working for the company in the '50s as an engineer and eventually bought the company.

"So after 60 years, the company was back in the hands of a Mason, even though we had no relation to the original owners," Mason says.

When Hugh took over the company about 15 years ago, the company was strictly a rigid box plant, as it always had been. But the changing industry prompted Hugh to take some risks and start making other types of boxes, including composite and metal boxes. Now, the company niche is those boxes.

"We needed to fill a need for one of our customers, so we did it," Mason says. "And that's how we've continually expanded our product line by meeting our customers' needs."

The company now produces mailing, set-up paper, hinged set-up, tinplated metal, and metal boxes with various custom features.

The company boasts the title of the country's largest rigid mailing box manufacturer as well as a producer of PVC and metal presentation boxes. It produces a 40-page catalog for its boxes and another catalog for its medical laboratory mailing boxes.

Mason Box's reputation for quality boxes has the company making jewelry boxes for some of the biggest names in the business.
Mason Box's reputation for quality boxes has the company making jewelry boxes for some of the biggest names in the business.

"We had a customer who was ordering certain boxes and once we realized what they were being used for, we knew if he had a need, other people must too," Mason says.

So the company came up with its medical vial line for medical uses. Many allergists use the line to mail their patients the vials for their shots. All of the boxes are designed to meet U.S. mail, UPS and FedEx shipping requirements. The specially-designed setup boxes are for the standard size 1 milliliter to 10 milliliter medical vials. The boxes have a three piece set of gray foam that provides cushioning while specially-designed wire fasteners hold the cover and contents in place.

While the rigid box industry in the Boston/Providence area was originally started to serve the needs of the jewelry industry, Mason now sells to more than 120 industries nationwide.

"We sell to retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. Along with the jewelry industry, we also service specialty fields including confections and specialty foods, cosmetics, dental, minting operations, optical cases, personal care products, pharmaceutical, writing instruments, tooling, precision instruments, and industrial packaging," Mason says. "We pretty much sell to everyone. We sell as few as a 100 boxes to a customer because of the catalog stock boxes so we have thousands of customers."

The company's reputation for quality and service has Mason producing boxes for the biggest names in the retail market today, including Tiffany and Co., one of the country's top jewelers.

The Keys

Due to the complexity of making so many types of boxes, Mason credits the company's success to its employees. Since the majority of the boxes are put together by hand, the workers are very skilled, especially the ones who make the composite boxes. "They all are specialists in their jobs," Mason says.

Some of the company's employees have been with the company as long as 55 years, so Mason believes the best way to gain knowledge is to go to those experts. "I'm not about to tell our employees how to do their jobs but I will go to them and work with them on finding out the time and cost estimate for the customer."

"We really rely on those people to help keep Mason Box a successful company," Mason says.

The company employs 120 people at its two sites �� one in North Attleboro and one in Taunton, Mass. The 64,000-square-foot Taunton facility exclusively produces the catalog mailing boxes. The 98,000-square-foot North Attleboro plant is built around the original family barn where the company was born.

The company has two in-house designers, along with one apprentice, who have helped the company win several national and international awards. Barbara Machado, Mason Box's director of design, designed four boxes that won several "Excellent" awards at the National Paperbox Association's 51st Annual Packaging Competition held last year. The company also won several awards at the 2000 International Paperbox Congress.

The company has a long history of developing equipment it needs. "We've always been very self-reliant," Mason says. Without revealing too much about the company's creations, Mason says the company has designed a machine that makes the metal fasteners the company uses on most of its mailing boxes.

The company recently bought a Star Matik platen press from Standard Paper Box Machine Co. The unique large-format machine does both foil stamping and die-outs. This is in addition to the Heidelberg hot stamping machine, the Chandler press and the Solna offset printing presses the plant already has.

Mason Box just finished its busy holiday season where it produces thousands of boxes for its regular customers in addition to the stock boxes bought from its catalog. The company is enjoying a few months of slower activity before the holiday rush starts all over again.

Mason Box Co. creates a huge variety of boxes for its customers, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. Along with the jewelry industry, the company also services specialty fields including advertising specialty, confections and specialty foods, cosmetics, dental, minting operations, optical cases, personal care products, pharmaceutical, writing instruments, tooling, precision instruments, and industrial packaging.

The company produces five primary types of boxes but with variations. Mailing, set-up paper, hinged set-up, tinplated metal, and metal boxes are produced at the company's plants in North Attleboro and Taunton, Massachusetts.

The company has a long list of its custom features it can add to the boxes, including wire fasteners, sealing flaps, matching set-up boxes, paper, leather, suede, velvet, fabric or custom-printed coverings, non-stock sizes, thumb cuts, diecut protective foam, corrugated platforms, vacuum-formed inserts, hot stamping, bundle wrap, cotton fill, flocked foam, plush pads, satin pads, paper hinge, rosette hinge, decorative closures, handles, presentation pop-ups, metal trims, flocked board, and/or pillow pads.