Alongside such iconic items as the phonograph, the 8-track and the Walkman, most people today see the boombox as just another relic of music’s past.
For the most part, this mammoth representation of 1980s excess — which forcefully blasted its tunes into the surrounding community — has been ditched in favor of the personal isolation of portable devices and MP3 players.
But thanks to a pair of local dreamers, this once booming product has found new life as a niche business that’s begun to create some noise up and down the beach.
Founded by Seth “Mr. Spark” Alcorace, 29, and Bobby “Dr. XactO” Williams, 36, Domecandy is a two-man electronics company that produces the RockBox, a device that combines classic aesthetics and modern functionality to make a unique portable speaker system.
“Basically, what we do is we rescue vintage speakers and vintage suitcases and resurrect them to make portable sound,” says Williams.
With no formal training in product design, these self-taught entrepreneurs created Domecandy after being fed up with the design and rigidity of current boombox models.
“Innovation is just a case of where people see a problem and they want to fix it, and that’s basically what we did here,” said Alcorace. “The old boomboxes weren’t fixable. You buy this $100 box and you’d be lucky to have it last a year or two and you’ll end up spending $100 in batteries within that time.”
Unlike traditional models, Williams says the life of a RockBox is “pretty much indefinite” with Domecandy extending an open-ended offer to repair any box they sell for free.
Models start at $399 for the smaller, suitcase-sized boxes such as “The Speakeasy” to $899 the for larger, guitar-case sized model known as “The Backstage” and even up to $1,199 for Domecandy’s top-of-the-line deluxe model “The Powersuit.”
The product line features roughly a dozen unique models — each with its own style, personality and whimsical backstory — but what’s really caught on with customers is the ability to commission a custom-made RockBox.
In addition to collegiate-themed models such as “The AlmaMater” and “The Class Act” made for friends, Domecandy has also created custom boxes for local businesses such as the horned “La Pamplona” for Bully’s Pub, a smiley face-adorned model “The Nice Day” for Myrtle Beach Watersports and a classically-striped model “The Longboard” for Myrtle Beach Tours.
The boxes have even begun to grab attention beyond the business community. In April, Domecandy was asked to provide sound with their product during a meet and greet session for S.C. House district 104 candidate Greg Duckworth at McLean Park in North Myrtle Beach.
The dawning of Domecandy
The idea for the company was born in October 2010 when Alcorace, an Idaho native and avid outdoorsman, planned a trip for he, Williams and some friends to go camping on Carolina Beach near Wilmington.
“I don’t camp. I resort,” jokes Williams. “I’ve always been a heavy beach packing guy. There’s hammocks, there’s chairs, music, stuff to read, lunch, drinks.”
On this particular trip, amongst the “three or four trips worth” of stuff brought was a boombox, a modern Sirius-radio connected set that cost around $120.
Throughout two days of rain-soaked camping — a miserable experience according to Williams — the music machine faltered, not because of the weather as one might expect, but as he describes simply “because it got used.”
“It was a casualty of the weekend,” he says. “Eventually in a tantrum, I picked up the boom box and I threw it down the beach in defeat.”
Feeling bad about his friend’s broken box Alcorace attempted to make up for the bad camping experience by replacing the item that had become a staple of Williams’ beachgoing experience.
With the holidays around the corner Alcorace sought out a replacement model online as a Christmas gift, but wasn’t satisfied with any of the options he found. So, instead of seeking to buy a new boombox, he instead decided he’d attempt to fix the original.
“What I quickly found is that these boomboxes aren’t meant to be fixed,” Alcorace said. “But once I looked inside I also discovered they’re very simple. It’s just an amp, speakers and power source.”
Despite having no real background in electronics, Alcorace took on the task of building a better boombox from scratch. Using some old speakers purchased for $15 on Craigslist, a $10 amp from eBay, the power source from the broken box and a suitcase he’d found, he created the first RockBox.
“It didn’t look that great. It’s was definitely a little rough,” said Alcorace, who decided that despite any flaws in artistry he’d still give the box to Williams for Christmas.
“I went nuts. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” said Williams. “When I saw it, with my background in art I immediately started thinking of ways to make it look better. And with him having figured out the electronics part we just started seeing tons of possibilities.”
A budding business
Once the idea was thrown down and the original box created, suddenly the potential of Domecandy became a great source of inspiration for its creators.
“There was no limitation on what we could do with them,” said Williams. “With each of us contributing our knowledge and what we’d learned we could come up with something that was really special.”
Williams and Alcorace began experimenting with ideas and came up with a base design featuring attractive layout and colorful exterior.
“People went crazy for it,” said Williams.
Though sales didn’t exactly take off from the get go, the response they got from friends and around the community proved to the pair that the interest was there for a boombox that looked unique, sounded great, was portable and was fixable.
“We had a feeling of accomplishment,” said Alcorace. “Whenever you create an idea with your mind or create something with your own hands it’s almost like a drug. It’s hard to explain, but we got this feeling from what we’d done and we just couldn’t stop.”
Soon, Williams and Alcorace began hunting materials, stocking up on old speakers online and getting suitcases donated from people within the community.
“You’d be amazed. It seems like everyone you know has one of these old suitcases laying around that are essentially useless now,” said Williams. “It felt good to be able to do something with stuff that was probably just going to end up in a landfill somewhere. We’re reusing all these things that would normally be thrown away.”
As they began to refine the production process, finding the right components, teaching themselves how to solder and constructing it all in a professional manner became the focus.
From there it’s simply been a matter of getting more efficient — they say they can now finish a box in a day — and marketing their product, showing it around town at various community events, festivals and concerts.
Creating a community
In addition to making their passion a full-time job — a goal which both men say is not far off — the Domecandy founders are also looking toward the future by taking steps which they hope will create a community around their creation and get others interested in building their own RockBox.
They’ve begun working with local electronic engineer Mikkel Green to create the components of a boombox creation kit that they hope to market soon.
“Everybody always want to know what’s inside these things,” said Alcorace. “And instead being like some folks and saying ‘well, it’s proprietary and we can’t let you know.’ for us an important part of starting our company was to share with others the experience of making these and be transparent about what we’re doing.”
Whether the idea catches on, the pair is unsure, but they’re confident that there are plenty of other audio junkies and folks with a desire to make something unique that serve as a potential base of builders.
“We just feel like music should be shared,” says Williams. “I feel like if we could just get as many people as want to do this, to actually go out and do it, we can start something of a musical revolution.”
Check out Domecandy at http://domecandylab.com/ or like them on Facebook.