PAINT BANK – After almost two years without a post office, postal services are now available on a smaller scale in the Paint Bank Village Post Office.
New Castle Postmaster Jeffrey Cherifi and other Postal Service officials were on hand June 11 for the official ribbon cutting and grand opening of the Village Post Office or VPO, in Postal Service terms.
The officials were Vickie Mosley, who is manager of marketing for the Postal Service’s Appalachian District, and Millard Flora, representative for Roanoke area postal operations.
Cherifi and Tonya Calfee, account manager for the Paint Bank General Store, did the ribbon cutting at the general store where the VPO is located.
Cherifi explained why United States Postal Service is promoting these smaller facilities.
“As the Paint Bank Post Office has been closed in October 2011, worries that this small community would never have a Postal outlet to buy stamps and mail Priority Mail may have run high, until now. As the Paint Bank General Store is already the center of town for its rural residents and mountain travelers to purchase meat, snacks, drinks, eat a home-cooked meal, or get a souvenir to take home, it is now home to a Village Post Office which will serve the primary functions of what their former Post Office had done in the past,” he said.
Currently there are nearly 300 (increasing weekly) of these VPO’s throughout the country, Cherifi said. “These VPO’s have been appearing in local libraries, gas stations, mini-marts; mostly in towns where the local Post Office has been permanently closed, between 2010 and early 2012, as the USPS faces gloomy economic times, as has the US economy as a whole.
“Slightly over a year ago, the USPS had announced that rather than continue to close small offices, they would allow these small offices to remain open, but with reduced business hours, in an effort to save the USPS $500M annually, which is named the “POSt Plan.” But, before this reprieve occurred, an option for the USPS to not only save money, but also continue to provide customers with access to postal services directly in their communities was to develop the concept of the Village Post Office, in July 2011.
“This new VPO will prove very beneficial to this community as residents become aware of the return of a Postal presence close to home,” Cherifi said. “They have been without one for almost two years now. It will actually exceed the level of service they had in the past, as unlike the former Post Office here, this VPO is open all day long, without a midday lunch closure,” he said.
Although the VPO cannot sell Postal Money Orders or weigh parcels, it can provide two of the most commonly needed services to the public, such as the sale of FOREVER stamps and the acceptance of Priority Mail in Flat Rate Envelopes and boxes, which is how almost all mail weighing over 13 ounces is mailed these days, Cherifi pointed out.
In the near future, it may be possible for this VPO to offer its customers the convenience of renting a PO Box, Cherifi said, since the zip code does not have its own “real” Post Office to provide them. The only such boxes in Paint Bank now are the ones that existed at the time of the closing of the former Post Office there.
If rental post office boxes are added, the mail would be boxed by a career postal employee in the form of the rural mail carrier, who already makes a daily stop to this address along his rural mail route out of Gap Mills W. Va., Cherifi said.
“That employee will also serve as the daily dispatcher of what mail and parcels are collected by the familiar blue collection box outside the store and the friendly store employees from over the counter. Although any mail accepted here in the afternoon will not get dispatched until the next business day, we foresee customers still being more than happy to utilize their VPO, located right in town, rather than face a 25-minute drive over the mountain to New Castle or Gap Mills to mail something at a Post Office,” Cherifi said.
Many who need their mailings to go out the same day will visit the VPO during the first half of the day, he said. “At the very least, they have a wonderful store to not only do their regular quick purchases, but they have 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. access to stamps and Flat Rate parcel acceptance, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Tonya, Darlene, and the crew who will be working their VPO each day will be eager to see their customers stop by.”
The New Castle Post Office will oversee the operation of the VPO as its “host office,” Cherifi added. He has been part of Roanoke-area Postal management since 1999 and New Castle Postmaster for more than three years. On and off during this time period he filled in as Officer-In-Charge (acting Postmaster) in some larger offices in the New River Valley for several months at a time, until the position could be filled.
“I always looked forward to returning to New Castle after each assignment; back closer to home and the small town environment,” he said.
The daily hours for the Paint Bank VPO are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.