Prospective post office vendors meet Postal Service seeks storefront operator for a satellite office

Officials say bids likely

Merchants complain business has been off since old center moved

November 25, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The operators of a florist, a delicatessen, a television repair service and a tuxedo rental shop learned yesterday what the U.S. Postal Service is looking for in a vendor to run a satellite post office in downtown Westminster.

The "how-to" session at Westminster City Hall, a first for Baltimore region Postal Service officials, was part of the service's effort to find an operator for a limited-service post office in the downtown business district.

The Westminster Post Office moved from its historic building at 83 E. Main St. to new quarters on Woodward Road in August, leaving downtown without a post office.

A satellite post office "can be anywhere but in a liquor store," said Donna M. Gouldin, Postal Service retail specialist. She said the Postal Service has storefront offices in many commercial districts, services that can be a lucrative sideline for business owners.

The Postal Service projects $200,000 a year in revenue from a storefront office in Westminster, Gouldin said. The Postal Service wants the operator to sell stamps, mail packages, handle express mail and letters to foreign countries, she said.

How much compensation the operator receives will depend on the bid, but Robert Paiva, Postal Service district marketing manager, said operators can request to negotiate a pay increase every two years.

"The best way to get an increase in compensation is to grow your business. If you're doing a lot of [post office] business, we're not stingy. We'll share," Paiva said.

Merchants have complained that business has dropped since the downtown post office closed. Postal customers often shopped at Main Street businesses before or after visiting the post office, business owners say.

The logs that Evelyn Beall, of Flowers by Evelyn, keeps in her shop opposite the former post office show a 62 percent drop in business since the post office moved out, she said.

"Don't you think a [storefront] post office should have been established long ago" before the post office moved out? Beall asked. "Don't you think we're going to lose money by not being open [for postal services] this Christmas?"

Paiva said the service cannot select an operator for a storefront office in time for the holidays. Bids will be received until Dec. 14. The Postal Service plans to evaluate bids by mid-January and might have a downtown post office open in February, he said.

Paiva said he wasn't disappointed by the turnout at the meeting, despite having solicited 35 businesses. He said those who attended showed serious interest and are likely to submit bids.

Paiva urged merchants to think about the benefits of having a storefront post office. The Postal Service will advertise the location and will supply weighing machines and other postal equipment, he said. The operator must provide 100 square feet of space.

A prospective post office operator doesn't have to hire an additional employee for the storefront post office, the Postal Service representatives said. At the flower shop, for example, an employee could halt work on a flower arrangement to sell stamps, then return to the flower arrangement, Paiva said.

The Postal Service has twice rejected bids submitted by local businesses as too expensive. The service agreed to solicit bids again and to conduct yesterday's session after city officials, local business leaders and the office of Maryland Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes lobbied for downtown service.

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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