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Coconut Greetings Press Release





Cleveland Plain Dealer
Post from Paradise
Kirtland woman's business sends coconuts through the mail
by Sarah Crump, Plain Dealer Reporter

Lisa Suhadolnik once asked an Oahu postal worker: What's the strangest thing anyone's ever sent? She turned the answer -- an unboxed coconut -- into a novel online business.

Suhadolnik estimates she has painted about 13,500 coconuts with palm trees, sunsets and messages since 1996, when the transplanted Willoughby South High School graduate got the idea at the Hawaiian post office near where she worked as a court reporter.

On the way home, she gathered up five coconuts for free from her neighbor's lawn -- coconuts are no big thing in Hawaii. "They're a nuisance, really," said Suhadolnik, 37.

She painted them with "Hawaiian Wind Chill 82 Degrees," addressed their shells and mailed them as Christmas "cards" to her parents and friends in Willoughby, Chardon and Concord Township.

Back in Ohio, the colorful coconuts weren't nuisances at all; they were novelties. When Suhadolnik's mom didn't find a coconut in her mailbox at the same time the neighbors did, she marched down to the post office to ask why. There she found the island souvenir displayed on a counter, customers chuckling at the tropical joke.

A business was born.

Before moving back to Ohio in 2000, Suhadolnik taught herself Web design and put photos of a few creations at www.coconutgreetings.com.

"It snowballed from there," she said. In fact, her most popular design this winter has been a coconut painted white and labeled "The Hawaiian Snowball." She decorates and shellacs the whole coconuts or parts of coconut shells imported from Hawaii, India and Sri Lanka at her home in Kirtland or in her in-laws' Geauga County barn.

The ornamental coconuts come in four varieties: the whole fruit in its naturally smooth outer husk for $22; a smaller, hollowed-out, round "nut" smoothed of its brown, fibrous "hair" or a cuplike version with its top cut off, both for $17; and hollow halves, $15. Bulk orders cost less.

The coconuts cost between $4.80 and $11 to mail, depending on weight and destination. Whole coconuts don't need boxes, though Suhadolnik offers one. As long as it carries a clear address, the mail carrier will deliver. The postage goes right on the shell. CONTINUED 1 | 2 Next

That probably made for a lot of talk at the Florida accounting firm that received a Suhadolnik coconut. On it she painted a big "I Quit" message a ticked-off employee had requested.

"I could just visualize the mailroom guy going from floor to floor with this coconut on his cart," said Suhadolnik.

She has other coco-nutty stories to tell. One man asked Suhadolnik for a hollowed-out coconut he could hide an engagement ring in. She painted his proposal on the shell: "My life would be paradise with you in it." The couple then ordered coconuts from Suhadolnik to include in their wedding reception centerpieces.

A Florida restaurant ordered some with its menu attached.

Other brides and grooms place big orders for hollowed-out coconuts in which they can place invitations or save-the-date instructions.

Ohio State fans can purchase a coconut painted like a big buckeye, complete with a scarlet "O." (Suhadolnik also has created a "Buck Shot," an Ohio State coconut "shot glass" that can hold an entire can of beer "if poured slowly," she cautioned.)

A few years ago, Country Music Television purchased 901 coconuts to plug "Cowboy U," a reality show originally set in Hawaii.

A sample birthday greeting Suhadolnik painted on a large coconut still wearing its smooth husk: "This coconut has more dimples and wrinkles than you ever will."

Darlene Fatica ordered custom coconuts two years ago to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her firm Concept 3 Graphics Inc. in Willoughby Hills. The fruits read, "We're nuts about your business."

She plans to order more. "They make great thank-yous for good clients. Everyone saves them!"

Suhadolnik also has a Web-design firm and a company that offers fully prepared luau food flown in from Hawaii. But her tropical-fruit enterprise draws the most attention -- especially when one of her creations lands in a mailbox. Imagine finding a pastel-color, egg-shaped coconut with zigzag trim that says "Happy Easter to a real big nut!"

Her offbeat business once had an off-color moment, however. She laughs about the time a bartender overheard her innocently tell a friend that one of her husband's acquaintances admired her coconuts.

The bartender shook his head and said, "Ma'am, I'm not even going to ask," said Suhadolnik. "He probably thought I was a stripper."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: scrump@plaind.com, 216-999-5478



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