An idea that takes some licking

Nearly two years ago, Chris Dunbar left his local post office with a bad taste in his mouth.

After licking a slate of envelopes for a business mailing, he recalls thinking, “There's got to be an alternative to this awful taste.”

Now, thanks to Dunbar, his wife Paige and their children, the alternative is in production, with patents pending and retailers expressing interest in the fruit of Dunbar's brainstorm: Flavorlopes.

“My kids have pencils that smell, highlighters that smell,” Dunbar said, describing a consumer world laced with scent and taste. “Why not envelopes?”

Dunbar said his three children, who range in age from 9 to 13, were the first test market for a flavor menu that now includes cherry, apple, grape, orange and strawberry.

“If it met their approval I knew I had a winner,” Dunbar said. “They loved the candy flavors and the fruit flavors. Then they start throwing out ideas — soda pops and different drinks. But we'll see if it ever gets to that stage.”

Dunbar, who owns three financial services centers in the San Fernando Valley, might not be the first to have dreamed up a flavored envelope, but he quickly realized no one had patented a flavored gum used to seal the envelopes.

Then the marketing aspect hit him.

“Our vision is to basically change the way envelopes are sent,” he said. “We feel like the envelope has never been taken advantage of.... Billions are sent every year and we put our eyes on envelopes each and every day, and the marketing aspect has never been captured. We're trying to open the doors for companies to market their businesses.”

Flavorlopes is in negotiation with candy companies such as Necco to use their flavor formulas and brand the insides of the envelopes with their logos, Dunbar said.

The Dunbars' neighbor and friend, JJ Gish, of Typecraft Wood and Jones in Pasadena, does the printing. Production began about two months ago at a Fullerton shop, Dunbar said.

Paige Dunbar helped broaden the design scope from her husband's original idea of No. 10 envelopes to include note cards and stationery.

“To take an idea and now see it come into retail outlets is amazing,” she said.

While big-box retailers are knocking, Chris Dunbar said, he wants to keep a hand in the local market and split the product line in two, with note cards and stationery available in independent retailers, and business and legal envelopes in the corporate venues.

“We really want to try to capture both marketplaces, but also try to protect the independents,” he said.

To that end, Flavorlopes will soon be available at Julie O'Keefe Home and Garden on Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada.

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