When small businesses in Alabama began closing their doors due to the pandemic, Angi Horn Stalnaker, owner of Virtus Solutions in Troy, took notice. She and office manager Laney Kelley also noted a push for consumers to buy more American-made products. She combined these observations and Bama in a Box, a subscription service filled with Alabama-made items, was born.
“We wanted to buy American, but further than that, we wanted to buy local from Alabama,” Stalnaker said. “The more we researched, the more we realized that literally almost everything you use every day can be bought from a company that makes it in Alabama.”
Amy Jinright, owner of Southern Scents and Sensations in Troy, said that if it had not been for Bama in a Box, her business might not be open today.
Jinright opened Southern Scents and Sensations 16 years ago, but has been in her building in Troy for less than three years. She started the business by making candles, but later moved on to soaps and lotions. Self-taught, she started by selling products out of the back of her car.
“I’d go to the different businesses where I might know one or two people that worked there,” Jinright said. “And then I would go in and all of the women would come out and shop at the back of my car.”
When she opened her store in downtown Troy, she had no idea that the pandemic would end up shutting her doors. She was left with a few wholesale customers, special orders and regular customers. Then Stalnaker reached out to Jinright about participating in Bama in a Box.
“Our goal was to sell 50 boxes,” Stalnaker said. “Now we have sold thousands of boxes all over the world.”
Bama in a Box not only includes seven items made in Alabama, but information about each business so customers can reach out to them if they want to buy again.
Jinright’s bath bomb was in the first Bama in a Box. She soon began getting Facebook messages from all over the country.
“I met these people this weekend that were from Alaska,” Jinright said. “They’re actually from Alabama and someone had sent them a Bama in a Box. She told me what was in her box and I said, ‘Well, that’s my bath bomb.’”
Stalnaker said boxes have been sent to Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Delaware, Michigan and Korea.
Johnson Labs in Troy provides dishwashing detergents, hand sanitizer and disinfectants. CEO Karla Johnson heard about Bama in a Box but doesn’t remember who reached out first.
“It’s helping us grow that retail customer demographic that we have not had,” Johnson said. “It has done a lot for us to help get our names out there and have a little more recognition.”
Soaps, snacks, sauces, syrups and more are mailed in the boxes. The only things you won’t find are perishable items, like vegetables. More than 500 high-quality products from Alabama are included in Stalnaker’s inventory.
For either a month-to-month ($39.95) or three-month subscription ($104), a box of products made in Alabama will be shipped to your doorstep monthly. The boxed products change each month, so a customer never gets the same items twice. There are also one-time specialty boxes, such as a grilling kit, breakfast in a box, ultimate Alabama gift box, coffee sampler, bath in a box and the Bama snack pack. Boxes for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas are available.
“You’ve never seen Amazon on the back of your kid’s little league jersey,” said Stalnaker. “You should buy things from inside Alabama if you can because you’re helping yourself. You’re helping your schools, textbooks, roads, bridges and community.”
For more information, visit bamainabox.com.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.