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Area businesses effected by closed downtown Post Office

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | NOVEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Clusters of old boxes and fading U.S. Postal Service posters are a silent reminder of a once-convenient mail stop for downtown businesses on East Washington Street.

The closing of this small downtown post office on Sept. 9 still has a big effect on local businesses, owners say.

 

"We've had to make a lot of changes, because we're shipping high-value merchandise," said Bill Nusser, owner of Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St. "… We've had to, again, work with the Postal Service to be able to find something that works out for us, convenience-wise."

The closing of the small post office was part of national cost-cutting efforts. In the last five years, the Postal Service has seen a $2 billion decline in retail transactions, according to the U.S. Postal Service website.

"It didn't make much sense given the Postal Service's finances keeping a post office open a block away," said Richard Watkins, a Postal Service spokesman, referring to the main post office on Clinton Street.

The actual distance between the two facilities is 31⁄2 blocks.

Workers at the Washington Street location were moved to the Clinton Street office, Watkins said.

Valerie Monzingo, the new postmaster at the Clinton Street location, said because of the closing, the office has increased staff and management.

As for the empty building on Washington, according to the Leased Facility Inventory Report, the 121 E. Washington St. facility is under a $90,000 annual lease until 2017.

Area business owners said they hope retail fills the space.

"Obviously, it doesn't look very nice," said Joni Schrup, the owner of neighboring Discerning Eye, 119 E. Washington St. "… There's a continual stream of people who come with packages that don't know it's closed."

While Nusser said he has referred some interested businesses to the owner of Washington Street Properties LC, he said he has not been told anything about the future of the building.

"Downtown is almost always rented," he said. "There are very few empty spots downtown. And lots of prime locations …"

And while the post office may save on operational costs, Nusser and Schrup said they now turning to private companies such as FedEx and the United Parcel Service.

"[Discerning Eye employees] were certainly there once a day…" Schrup said. "So now we've had to completely change the way we ship."

The owner of Washington Street Properties LC did not wish to comment on the terms of the lease.

Watkins said he was not sure whether the Washington Street office was owned or leased by the Postal Service, but that moving out before a lease expires may save the post office money.

"If we lease that, obviously, we're obligated to complete that lease…" Watkins said. "Seventy-five percent of all post offices are leased."

Area business owner Mark Vining of Mailboxes, 308 E. Burlington St., said he has seen a slight uptick in business since the closing of the downtown post office.

"Transactions have gone up a little," he said. "We're selling more stamps and first-class mail."

However, Watkins said, the small distance between the former office and the operational office in Iowa City is translating to a fairly small effect overall.

"Again, you're talking about such a short distance, it's really not a big issue operationally," Watkins said. "It made little difference. The P.O. box holders are a block away than they used to be."


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