Unique Texas businesses born during the pandemic: ‘Completing the Puzzle’ and ‘Boxed Bites’

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — While some businesses have faced financial hardships over the last nine months, delivery services have taken off.

Two here in Texas are offering unique services. One, Completing the Puzzle, is a monthly subscription service aiming to cut down on the waste of puzzles. The other, Boxed Bites in Dallas, offers personalized charcuterie box deliveries.

“My birthday is at the end of March. And Brian had actually gotten me a nice puzzle that was commemorative of one of the trips we had taken together before everything got shut down,” Alania Cater explained how she and partner Brian Thomas started their company this spring.

Completing the Puzzle (Courtesy: Brian Thomas)
What began as a pandemic pastime quickly sparked a business idea.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to share puzzles? Because it just feels like such a waste, that you do a puzzle once and then you don’t really ever do it again,” Cater said.

That’s when they thought about starting the subscription service.

“My background is in e commerce, particularly subscription boxes,” Thomas explained.

Completing the Puzzle offers tiered payment options and different choices based on puzzling experience. For each, you get unlimited puzzles each month.

“You’ll receive your puzzle in the mail, you’ll do it, you’ll put it back in, you send it back to us,” Cater said, explaining that the puzzles are then put through a sanitation machine.

“Then you don’t have to do anything, we’ll send you a new one,” she explained.

They began with just friends and family, but that quickly grew over the first week. Now, they have customers across the country.

“We went from 500 to 2,000 in about a month,” Thomas said.

Completing the Puzzle (Courtesy: Brian Thomas)
It’s not the only delivery service that’s taken off.

“Being in the cheese and charcuterie delivery business was never part of the original plan,” Paige Muller said. Social media and the pandemic fueled the beginning of Boxed Bites.

Boxed Bites Dallas (Courtesy: Paige Muller)
“I worked for a restaurant group in New York City for a long time, doing events and luxury brand partnerships and things like that. And then the pandemic happened,” Muller explained.

When she moved back to Dallas over the summer, she sent little gifts to her friends to lift their spirits.

“I made a box of my favorite things, I ordered a few boxes, with the intention of sending them just to a few friends and I wrote a little handwritten note, I love you, COVID, it’s gonna be okay, you know, like, we’re gonna get through this,” Muller said.

When her friends posted the boxes on social media, Muller began to get inquiries about making more. She then realized she had a potential business on her hands.

“I think that’s 30 orders the first week, which to me was out of this world. And I remember talking to one of my best friends saying like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have five boxes tomorrow, like how are we ever going to be able to get five boxes done,’” Muller said.

Now, she’s filling 400 orders a week.

“My mom’s tying the boxes, my dad’s lining up the coolers, and then we head out for deliveries,” Muller said she’s grateful for her family’s help keeping up with all the orders, “Just last week we did as many boxes as we did the entire month of August.”

For now, the orders are just local in Dallas. Muller gets fresh ingredients every single day.

“I’m at the bakery, we get all of our breads from a local bakery, we get our lavender from a Texas local farm, we get our honey from a local farm,” Muller explained.

But, she’s working on plans to expand in the future.

“We’re trying to kind of work on that process right now of, you know, being able to replicate this exact model of what we’re doing. Definitely around Texas, and then, you know, hopefully nationwide,” Muller said.

She said she thinks the boxed charcuterie deliveries have appeal even after the pandemic ends.

“We’ve had people that have done a lot of the virtual cocktail parties and zoom meetings and things like that very much so with the times, but then we also have the baby showers and the happy birthdays and happy anniversaries,” she explained.

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