TERRELL HILLS — Fitting San Antonio into a box is a challenge, but that hasn’t stopped Allison Craig.
From a makeshift home office and supply room, the mile-a-minute entrepreneur and mom created a thriving unique enterprise with a double goal: crafting gift boxes stuffed with locally produced treats and supporting homegrown small businesses, especially during the pandemic.
She calls it San Antonio in a Box.
“Our mission is to share the tastes of San Antonio from all over the city,” Craig said.
From Bolner’s Fiesta Brand Frito pie kits to mini piñatas, chocolate, coffee, salsa, moisturizing creams, cocktail-infused supplies or spicy salsas, buyers can customize numerous colorful items or choose one of several preassembled care packages with themes like A Taste of the Alamo City, Date Night, or even a Social Distancing one (an embroidered face covering is a nice touch).
A brightly hued fact sheet accompanies each container with some descriptions of the San Antonio companies’ products. Many possess well-established Alamo City origins such as Ricos, Bolner’s, Schilo’s and The Barbecue Station.
Others like Tex-Kow Chips, TexaCola, and Quick Sip Coffee are relatively new.
“When someone in New York City gets a box and they really like the Mexican hot-chocolate bars or the moisturizer, they see a little bit about the company,” Craig said. “Now people have started to order from some of our vendors. We love being able to share that.”
The entrepreneur said the seed for the business was planted when she and husband Reeves Craig, now a vice president at Weston Urban, planned their wedding.
“We put together a San Antonio gift package for our guests, and that spawned the idea,” her husband said. But, full-time jobs – hers in corporate oil and gas; his in real estate — intervened. Starting a family was another priority.
“Fast forward down the road to last year. We had just had our third baby, our priorities were shifting, and we decided to revisit the San Antonio in a Box,” Allison Craig said. “I thought I would do it on the side for a while and see if it worked out. Then a week before we launched in December, I got laid off.”
Fortunately, the boxes proved a big hit. Request orders poured in from corporations, event planners and regular folks who wanted to share the flavor of the Alamo City. Visit San Antonio climbed aboard.
Then came COVID-19.
“When the pandemic hit, our first reaction was, ‘Well, that’s it for us,’” Reeves Craig said. “It has been the opposite. And, Allison has connected with more and more small businesses.”
“Since nobody is traveling and it’s all hands off, we are kind of like the go-to,” Allison Craig said. With many retail stores closed and personal shopping down, the boxes have provided a steady financial outlet for some small merchants.
“San Antonio is such a diverse town, and Allison has been great about finding vendors from all different parts of the city,” her husband said. “I grew up here, and she has found things I never knew about.”
Casa Chocolates owners Brian and Joan Mikiten introduced Jacob Hurrell-Zitelman, who founded Quick Sip Coffee in a Trinity University dorm in 2017, to Allison Craig before she launched the business.
Quick Sip Cold Brew whole-bean coffee is offered in some local restaurants, H-E-B Central Market in Alamo Heights, downtown’s Royal Blue Grocery, online and many of Craig’s cartons.
“To be one of the first products in the box, and to really understand the purposes of this was awesome. The exposure and the volume have helped us a lot, especially now. A lot of places we sell to closed in March. In April, Allison was our main account,” Hurrell-Zitelman said.
Entrepreneurship, hard work and self-confidence are embedded in Craig’s heritage. Growing up in Graham, outside Dallas-Fort Worth, she and her four younger brothers were athletes; all ran track in college.
Her dad owned a mud-logging company, and she’s always worked in oil and gas.
“I started on a drilling rig as a mud logger, collecting samples and working with a geologist to find the right kind of rock. I loved it,” she said.
Craig’s work eventually brought her to San Antonio.
“My parents were always entrepreneurs. They taught us not to give up, that everything happens for a reason, that if you believe in yourself and trust yourself you will be a success. That has been an inspiration,” she said.
Craig added, “And so many people who want to take their jewelry or piñatas or masks to the next level are an inspiration. It is incredibly heartwarming to get a text that says: ‘You have helped save our family business during quarantine.’”
A natural networker, Craig keeps expanding her contact circle and fine-tuning her collections of San Antonio treats. She can only recall one rejected product suggestion.
“Somebody wanted me to put acne cream in a box,” she said. “But, I couldn’t see that representing San Antonio.”