Whimsical gift items in custom boxes. That's Mirth in a Box, a new business recently launched by long-time Fairfielder Gay Gasser.

In her office on the lower level of Fairfield County Real Estate Co. at 200 Mill Plain Road, where she had worked as a real estate agent for 24 years, Gasser spoke about her startup.

"My husband Paul and I would often get fruit baskets at the holidays," she said. "People must have thought we needed the fiber and Vitamin C! These were very nice but the fruit flies got most of it -- we just couldn't eat that much fruit. They would come in towers of different sized boxes and I would empty and refill them with silly old S.S. Adams novelty items -- fake dog poop, joy buzzers, snake-in-a-can -- for my kids. They had tons of fun with them. We did it for years and called it `tower of tricks.' "

At a crossroads in her life in 2007, Gasser decided to go to business school, and signed up for a course at New York University. The class required a business concept.

"I had 35 different business ideas, but had to pick just one," she said. "I thought, for kicks, of pursuing the tower idea and adopted the business name Mirth in a Box. Mirth came out of the blue. I developed a structured business plan, and though my teacher and family thought it was great, I did not initially pursue it."

Periodically, Gasser's teacher would email her to follow up, which eventually spurred her to form an LLC in 2009. She also brought on two friends -- fellow real estate agent and Fairfielder Jill Clarke, who previously worked in project management and print at local marketing agencies, to handle logistics, and Anne Weinrod as bookkeeper.

"I said to Gay, get me the hell out of real estate," said Clarke. "She calls me the Cerebellum." The trio started figuring out box types and began to build a website, which was initially unsuccessful. "We put up a modified order site placeholder until we found SiteForm in Chicago, who saved us," Gasser said. "They built the site we wanted, which launched in August 2011. During that long ramp-up time, we amassed an inventory of close to 500 products and 30 different box types."

Gasser said they have only just started marketing through social media, magazines and online advertising. They have also developed a blog, Mirthinablog.com, where they post amusing, frivolous articles mostly associated entertainment.

As to the products, Gasser said, "They all amuse in some way, from highbrow to lowbrow and in between. We have the Cadillac of fart machines and Shakespearean insult mugs. Strip poker dice. Great drinker shot glasses. Therapy balls. Marie Antoinette action figures with removable heads. Embarrassing slogan pens. Deli sandwich coasters. Things to make people smile that a piece of fruit or cheese in wax won't do. And you can build a box, buy individual items or order pre-made boxes."

People are taking notice. "They have gathered together some really fun and silly items," said Cristy Jones, of Orange. "They add new stuff all the time, so it's lots of fun to shop."

Southporter Ronna Kanaan said, "Gay creates wonderfully humorous gift boxes. Her Baby Box was a big hit with a family friend. Last Christmas, Gay even brought last-minute gift items to my door the same day I ordered them."

For more information, visit www.Mirthinabox.com , email Gay at GayGasser@mirthinabox.com or call 203-292-9290.

Mike Lauterborn is a freelance writer.