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Stores getting post offices to make services convenient

By Chris Otts
Published Tuesday, August 28, 2007
[ From The Courier-Journal]

When Virginia Powrie runs errands for Total Body Rehab, her son's physical therapy business off Westport Road near the Snyder Freeway, it used to mean taking the mail to the post office in Lyndon or Pewee Valley.

But in June, Powrie traded a long drive for a stroll to a postal center in the Dollar & Cents store about four doors away.

"You get to take a breath of fresh air and come see his smiling face," Powrie said, referring to Dollars & Cents owner Dujuan Rowan, who usually operates the postal center.

Dollars & Cents, a dollar store, has one of two new "contract unit" post offices in northeastern Louisville.

Another is scheduled to open next month at the Your Community Bank branch off Old Henry Road, said Don Beierle, the U.S. Postal Service's customer relations manager for Louisville.

There is also a contract unit at the Meijer store in Springhurst, as in all Meijers in Louisville, he said.

Contract units are the U.S. Postal Service's way of serving areas where it cannot yet afford to build new post offices, Beierle said. In the case of Dollars & Cents, it's a counter at the back of the store where customers can do almost anything they can do at a post office. The contract unit is operated by the store's staff, and it costs the Postal Service almost nothing to set up, Beierle said.

The store takes a commission of 8 percent to 12 percent for running the postal center, and it benefits from added traffic, Beierle said.

"It makes us a destination spot," said Rowan, whose store is on Maple Brook Drive near the Westport Road Wal-Mart. "It separates us from our competition."

Barbara Hienes, a resident of the Cedar Park Apartments, said she can walk just around the corner to Dollars & Cents for postal service rather than drive to Pewee Valley.

"It's convenient," she said after her fourth visit to the store recently. "It's just like, three minutes away."

Eventually, the Postal Service may build a post office to serve two fast-growing ZIP codes: 40245 and 40241. It would take pressure off the Middletown post office in 40245 and the Lyndon post office in 40241, Beierle said.

It would probably be somewhere between the two areas, such as off Old Henry Road, he said, adding that it wouldn't happen for at least five years.

For now, the Postal Service is looking for another contract unit in northeastern Louisville, preferably along Brownsboro Road between Hurstbourne Parkway and Chamberlain Lane, Beierle said.

"It's just hard to find somebody who's willing to give up space in their store," and others have problems staffing a postal center, Beierle said.

While the Middletown and Lyndon post offices are very busy, the Anchorage post office is under-used, he said. That might be because it doesn't have a parking lot or "probably some people don't know it's there," he said.

Contract units are not a new concept. There has been one in the Brownsboro Hardware store in Windy Hills for about 20 years, Beierle said.

The Postal Service trains store personnel to operate the contract units, and they receive few complaints, Beierle said.

"As long as they sell you stamps and mail your letters," said Joseph Sauer, an electrician at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant who was in Dollars & Cents recently, "it's all good for me."

Reporter Chris Otts can be reached at (502) 582-4589.

For More Information Contact:

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