Sunday, November 18, 2001

Randy Bridwell wants to make the mail safer. So the coffee shop owner from Columbia, Tenn., invented the Clear and Secure Tamper-Evident Envelope and has been showing it around to congressmen on Capitol Hill.
“I just felt like we had to do something,” Mr. Bridwell, 38, said. “This is kind of my weapon.”
The envelope, which is clear on one side, is made of a film similar to plastic. It is see-through, water-resistant and self-sealing, and on its face it has a picture of the American flag.
“If used properly,” the front of the envelope reads, “the Clear and Secure Tamper-Evident Envelope can reduce the risk of transmission of anthrax and many other diseases that can be transmitted through postal delivery or private package delivery companies.”
The envelope also contains written warnings not to open or accept letters with no return address and to wash hands thoroughly after handling any mail.
Mr. Bridwell said he made the prototype last month from a plastic page protector. He contacted envelope companies, but they were too committed to paper.
He moved on to packaging companies that produce tamper-resistant deposit bags and food-storage products, and within days made arrangements with two companies to begin producing the envelope.
Two weeks ago, he presented a demo to the U.S. Postal Service, which expedited his request and cleared the envelope to carry first-class mail.
“It’s been amazing how quickly this has happened,” he said. “Everyone I’ve talked to has loved the product.”
Mr. Bridwell said he is meeting with several national retailers about carrying the product, which could hit store shelves within a month and would cost consumers “a little less than a postage stamp.”
While the legal size will be the first to go into production, he’s hoping he can have a Christmas-card size envelope in time for the holidays.
“It’s not an answer to everything, but it’s an added measure of security,” he said.

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