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IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A COW, IT'S A TRAIN, IT'S A ...

Your mailbox can look almost government-issue, or it can have

style, as in pizazz, as in reflecting your imagination, or as in your

shouting, ''Hey, look at me!''

It's your choice.

It can have that art deco look of a racing airplane from the 1920s and

'30s.

It can look like a railroad locomotive.

Or it can look like a pink flamingo, a holstein cow, a hummingbird, a pig,

a dog or a pink Cadillac.

So far we've offered eight examples of custom mailboxes offered by Ray

Rogers, owner-president-designer-janitor at More-Than-A-Mailbox, Inc., in

Petaluma.

More-Than-A-Mailbox offers a total of 40 designs, all created from what

pops into Rogers' brain or what people request.

He even has a tree-frog mailbox. No one requested it, ''but I just had to

do it,'' Rogers says.

More-Than-A-Mailbox is in The Foundry Wharf, at 617B 2nd St. (The front

door is under a painting of a black and white cow, ''The Moona Lisa.'') It's

here that parts for his custom mailboxes -- wings for the airplane, a toothy

jaw for the shark, and the head, legs and tail of a cow -- are hand-cut out of

wood, hand-painted, packed with a postmaster approved mailbox and mailed to

customers in this country and around the world.

Rogers sells a few mailboxes out of the gift shop attached to the

industrial-sized production area, but most sales are through catalog orders

(like the Lillian Vernon catalog) and through gift trade shows.

His cow mailbox is ''the No. 1 seller in the world,'' he says, ''and the

flamingo is the No. 2 seller, nationwide. They are everywhere. It's a big

market.''

Of course, no businessperson would be worthy of being called a

businessperson if he or she didn't set higher goals. Rogers' is simple:

''There are 37 million rural mailboxes in the United States and my goal is to

sell one per block. That's all I want.''

Rogers calculates there are about 100 houses on a block (''That's a pretty

big block,'' he admits) which translates into selling 370,000 mailboxes.

Over the past seven years in business, the last two in Petaluma, Rogers and

his crew have sold more than 150,000 mailboxes.

The boxes are $59. ''Mailboxes have a life expectancy of four years,''

Rogers says. ''Some last just two weeks, some 10 years. We offer mail

insurance and also guarantee against mailbox theft or vandalism. The insurance

is free the first year. After that the cost is $5 for one year, $10 for three.

The free, first-year insurance comes with the purchase of the mailbox.''

''It doesn't matter what happens to it,'' Rogers says of the insurance

policy. ''If an alien abducts it or you run over it with your car, we will

replace it for free.

Most of More-Than-A-Mailbox's customers are female homeowners. ''People who

buy our products want other people to identify with them (the customer). They

are saying, 'I love birds' or 'My cat is the most important thing in the

world.'''

The boxes do require some assembly. For instance, if you order the cow

model, the head, legs and tail are packed inside the mailbox and mailed to

you. You attach the cow parts to the mailbox, working from easy-to-follow

steps sent along with the parts.

Easy-to-follow? Rogers realizes that most people don't follow directions,

so he contracted to have an artist draw a color cartoon panel satirizing guys

who fall into that category.

The point Rogers is making is that anyone can assemble his custom

mailboxes. (The key tools are an Allen key to tighten the screws plus a

smidgeon of patience.)

More-Than-A-Mailbox also makes birdhouses and bird feeders. As well, if

you're looking for a cigar store Indian, totem pole or celestial mobiles,

potato gardens, pepper gardens, three-dimensional puzzles, a Godzilla with a

hot ray coming out its nose or refrigerator magnets that are icons of

something you, your mother or your grandmother have seen (like CocaCola or the

Planters Peanuts symbols), he's got them at his showroom.

More-Than-A-Mailbox's toll-free number is 800-331-3252.

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