Container Stories

AMAC Boxes: Affordable Works of Art

How a tiny plastic box ended up being used by everyone from Warhol to the White House

by Brad

The year was 1960. In the United States, Nixon and Kennedy went head-to-head in a historic presidential race; Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was terrifying movie-goers across the country; Don Draper was leading Sterling Cooper's creative team through one memorable advertising campaign after another. (OK, that last one might be fictional.)

A colorful assortment of our AMAC boxes.

That same year, Gene Hurwitt bought a small plastics factory in Sausalito, California. After spending the previous decades in the fur cleaning business he was desperate for a change of pace, and he ended up channeling his passion for modernist design into creating simple, functional, and attractive household products. Thus, the AMAC Plastic Products Corporation was born! Transparent plastic storage boxes were actually a relatively rare sight in those days, but Hurwitt began by using a strong, crystal-clear polystyrene to create small, inexpensive boxes for the pharmaceutical industry.

From there he kept on innovating and expanding his product line, creating a line of storage boxes in a variety of sizes and a dazzling rainbow of bright colors. Their endless versatility, clean design, and small price point made them perfect for storing office or craft supplies supplies, as gift packaging, as decorative objects, and a myriad of other uses.

By the mid ‘60s, AMAC boxes were such a big hit (both commercially and aesthetically) that they were added to the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. Not long afterward, pop artist Andy Warhol used them to create his work "Portrait of the Artists 17." AMAC boxes have been featured as props in iconic films such as On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Blade Runner, and Spider-Man, and they've even been used as stylish table centerpieces in state dinners around the world!

Ever since we first opened our doors in 1978, we at The Container Store have prided ourselves on offering stylish and unique storage solutions, and AMAC boxes were a wonderful early addition to our product line. Our Assistant Buyer Mary Alice Corrigan remembers her days of working in our stores and selling AMAC boxes to our customers: "One of the best seasons in the stores is back to school time. I always enjoyed helping students get organized for school. Seniors would come in to pick up sorority gifts for their 'little sisters.' I loved helping them pick out just the right AMAC box to fill with different colored markers or with goodies! Every year I would help students pull together these gifts and it always included AMAC boxes. We have carried AMAC products in our stores for years, and it is always fun to hear what fun things our customers will do with them!"

AMAC boxes are also food-safe and make for stylish serving pieces.

Over the years we've enjoyed a terrific working relationship with AMAC, and they've even created some exclusive colors just for us. But like any great business partnership, it's not simply a one-sided relationship. "I would say that The Container Store has had a huge impact in how I think about design and manufacturing and attention to detail," says Steve Catechi, Executive Vice President of AMAC Plastic Products Corp. "Sharon Tindell [The Container Store's retired Chief Merchandising Officer] is a mentor for me. Her sense of how something is going to both fit into the marketplace and into someone's home is amazing. And what makes The Container Store special is that they have people who are well-trained and passionate about the products they sell." 

Ever since Gene Hurwitt began his journey into the world of plastics almost 60 years ago, AMAC has continually manufactured some of the most sleek, attractive storage products on the market. They're truly brilliant masterpieces of modern design, and we're so honored to be able to offer this gift of aesthetic beauty—not to mention convenient storage—to our customers!