Businesses welcome planned post office

Deli-grocery store to offer mail service

February 07, 1999|By Kristine Henry and Brenda J. Buote | Kristine Henry and Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Westminster merchants and officials are hoping to see a boost in business along Main Street with the opening next month of a satellite post office at a downtown Italian deli and grocery.

The U.S. Postal Service awarded a contract for the limited postal service to Giulianova Groceria in the Winchester Exchange Building on Main Street. Store owner Tony D'Eugenio said he expects service to begin March 1.

The announcement Friday was good news for Westminster officials and merchants, still reeling from Carroll County Bank and Trust Co.'s decision to scrap its plans to redevelop a key downtown site.

The bank had planned to build a $6 million office complex at Liberty and Green streets, bringing 135 jobs downtown. But last week the bank announced it was being acquired by BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., and canceled its redevelopment plans.

The announcement "had a negative impact on everyone's morale downtown," Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said. "This [post office] is a shot in the arm.

"Giulianova's has access from the front and rear of the store, and it's centrally located in the business district downtown -- and you can get a bite to eat while you're getting stamps," the mayor said.

"I feel special, honored and excited," said D'Eugenio. "I'm treading in unknown waters here."

Many downtown merchants have complained of dwindling business since the Postal Service closed its historic site at 83 E. Main St. in August and moved to a new building at 345 Woodward Drive. The satellite post office is seen as a way to bring back lost foot traffic.

D'Eugenio's was one of three businesses that bid on the project. Evelyn Beall, owner of Flowers by Evelyn on East Main Street, and Robin and Tracey Pool, owners of Country View Tuxedo and Wedding Accessories, also bid.

Beall said she saw business drop by 62 percent after the main post office closed last year.

"We were hoping the postal unit would be one way to bring customers in," she said after learning she didn't get the contract. "We prayed about it, but it wasn't God's will."

In the three years that Beall has been in business, the fire company, Mather's department store and the post office have closed their doors.

"As each business closed, we saw a decrease in foot traffic," said Beall. "We were considering closing our doors in February, but we're not going anywhere."

Instead, the shop was able to increase business by selling stamps at its Main Street location, and by winning a contract to operate a gift shop at Carroll County General Hospital.

Tracey Pool, whose tuxedo shop is in the same building as Giulianova Groceria, said it's just as well that she didn't have the winning bid.

"I'm really glad Tony got the contract. We're definitely going to benefit from the traffic coming in," she said. "We get the benefits without the headaches."

Before the contract is completed, D'Eugenio must obtain a bond to insure the Postal Service against any possible losses. Then he must go through eight hours of training, which he will pass on to his employees. He plans to hire two part-time workers to keep up with the extra business.

Neither he nor postal officials would disclose how much his contract is worth. But D'Eugenio said he plans to make money not on the postal unit itself but on the added business it could bring his deli.

"I'm banking on people coming in here and, between the smells and the aromas, saying `Hey, I'm starving, let me buy something,' " D'Eugenio said.

The satellite office is "a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary winter," Yowan said, adding that U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' office was instrumental in moving the process along.

Postal officials considered things such as businesses' hours of operation, parking availability and location in deciding which business should operate the satellite office, said Helen Skillman, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service.

The satellite office will sell stamps and money orders, handle domestic and international packages, and offer priority and express service, said Skillman.

Since July 1996, seven businesses submitted proposals for the unit, said R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., although only three were involved in the final bid.

"This is a service we know is needed. People have requested this service," he said.

Pub Date: 2/07/99

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