Cape post office seeks to expand with businesses

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

With traffic-flow problems at its temporary office on Christine Street and the timetable for a move to a permanent location uncertain, the U.S. Postal Service is looking for help in better serving Cape Girardeau. It is appealing to area businesses to help shoulder the load.

On July 19, the local postal service began posting fliers soliciting partnerships with retailers interested in becoming contracted postal units, or full-service satellite drop stations where people can drop off mail, buy stamps and purchase other postal products and services.

Cape Girardeau postmaster Mike Keefe said that in the five months since the post office moved from 320 N. Frederick St., the office has received complaints about the temporary locale. The most common complaint is a lack of adequate parking.

The move was ordered by postal service officials after questions about the office's previous building's structure following roof repairs.

The idea here, according to Keefe, is to alleviate traffic at a crowded temporary location at 284 Christine St. by diverting some of it to other areas of the city. Specifically, Keefe is looking to recruit businesses located between the 100 and 1000 blocks of North Kingshighway, and the 600 to 1000 blocks of South Sprigg Street, which is south of Highway 74.

In addition to helping a busy post office, retail specialist Veronica Dandridge with the U.S. Postal Service in Kansas City, Mo., said that the new locations would improve service by making mailing more convenient.

"Now if you don't want to go into the post office, you can do your mailing while you're getting gas or getting groceries," Dandridge said.

Keefe said that although grocery stores are often popular outlets for this service, problems have arisen in the past. Grocery stores can become too busy to offer quick service to postal customers, and staffing and training get to be too expensive. That is why Keefe is looking to smaller units, such as convenience stores.

In return, the businesses would receive a certain percentage of proceeds from the postal products and services they sell. The percentage is negotiated for a one-year contract, which is renewable annually. But some that already participate in similar contracts with the post office say the real benefit isn't the direct cash influx from handling stamps.

Barbara Ezzell is a store manager for Carol's Hallmark store at the Town Plaza on William Street. Her store has been a limited contract postal unit -- offering all but a few services such as registered and international mail -- since the post office's March move. She said that the percentage coming in from sales is very small. The real benefit, she said, is the increased flow of customers taking advantage of the service.

"It brings new people in all the time," Ezzell said. "It's always good to have new people."

Ezzell's store and Kirlin's Hallmark at Westfield Shoppingtown West Park are the only stores operating with postal unit contracts in Cape Girardeau.

Although he is searching for full-service locations within the aforementioned parameters, Keefe said both range of services offered and location is negotiable. However, the business should have handicap accessibility, about 10 by 15 square feet to set up shop within the business, and cannot offer private mailbox service or competitive products and services.

Keefe said that these contracts will not be affected by the long-term plans of the main post office. He said that decision is still about three months away, and that is about the time it would take to set up a contract unit in an interested business.

Any interested business can contact Dandridge at (816) 374-9779 or by e-mail at veronica.m.dandridge@usps.gov. Applications are due by Aug. 9.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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