Como Avenue Post Office won’t close


Efforts to protest the closing of the Como Avenue post office in Saint Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood fizzled out late last week when the U.S. Postal Service said that only one office on its list of 24 Minnesota stations and branches was still on the chopping block: the South International Falls Finance Station.

When the Postal Service announced in July that it lost $2.4 billion between April and June and was looking at possibly closing 3,200 branches throughout the country, including the Como Avenue station and Seeger Square station on Saint Paul’s east side, the St. Anthony Park neighborhood online forum started to buzz.

The branch at 2286 Como Ave. is in the heart of a neighborhood business district that includes a small grocery store, a community bank, a couple of gift shops, a bookstore, two restaurants, dental offices, and more.


Lively discussion on the St. Anthony Park on-line forum included these comments (republished with permission):

Anne Holzman: I don’t think I need the post office to be run as a business, personally. I think I need it to deliver my mail – the oftener, the better – which includes magazines full of ideas I wouldn’t otherwise absorb, and thank-you notes from friends who still use image and touch to convey emotion, and photos printed on better-quality paper than I care to purchase for my printer, and dresses that my mom made for my daughter . and so that I can reciprocate, plus send out manuscripts I’m endlessly trying to get published, get my family’s passports renewed . online services are great, but I still find myself plenty attached to bricks and mortar. And I try very hard to get to them on foot.

What is money for, if not for the exchange of goods and ideas? I wonder at what point we get so lost in “saving money” that it ceases to serve its purpose at all.

Jon Schumacher: I think there are questions at a national level as to whether shutting down small stations is the best way to counter the larger problem of diminishing revenue. So, it’s not just SAP. And, of course, the idea of larger/fewer is a philosophy we are confronting with our rec centers, libraries and schools to name a few institutions we would like to preserve at a local level.

It is increasingly incumbent upon neighborhoods to make the case to these larger entities that it is cost effective to have smaller shops and that walkable services will be used more than drivable ones. As much as they might feel sympathetic to our needs, they are operating on a bottom line mentality – if they think they can keep most of the customers even if they shut down the Como Station, they will. If they hear from us that they will lose more business than they expect, they may consider keeping it open, especially if our elected officials make some noise.

While I understand the pressure to find cost savings in the short run, I remain convinced that every community PO that is closed is a nail in the coffin of long-term postal service. In many ways, post offices are like newspapers, libraries, rec centers and schools: they build community by connecting us to each other. We have to find new ways to support these important public services. They are fundamental to our quality of life and once removed are very difficult to bring back. Having seen the decline and recent resurrection of trolley cars and railroads, perhaps we can avoid making the same mistake with Post Offices. As the song says, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

“Losing the Como station would be a huge loss for this community, and we have to do whatever we can to prevent it,” said Jon Schumacher, executive director of the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation, in a post dated August 4.

Neighbors began distributing addresses of the Saint Paul postmaster and U.S. senators and representatives onto the online service and urged each other to write letters the old-fashioned way, with stamps rather than email, in support of keeping the branch open. The post office had stacks of surveys at the entry to the building, asking customers about their use of the station.

Some residents and business people saw the closing of the post office as something the Postal Service needed to do. “The post office needs to be run like a business,” wrote Sandy Jacobs of Update Company, a property management firm in the neighborhood. “If they’re losing money and they have too many locations too close together, then a branch may need to close, even though it would be less convenient for some.”

Resident Gordon Murdock, however, did not agree that closing the branch made good economic sense: “The community service that the post office provides cannot be replaced by ordering stamps on line or having mail delivered from another station. . . . [B]eing a center of activity adds economic value to the village. Foot traffic to the village helps support the small businesses there (which we all value). . . .”

Turns out, community service (and the outpouring of community concern) was one of the reasons many of the stations in Minnesota will not close, according to USPS spokesperson Peter Nowacki. “Community issues were a factor,” he said. “We looked at some [stations] and knew [closing] would have a negative impact on customer service.” Also, many of the stations “are tied to a small business community in the area,” he said, and closing the local post office would negatively affect those businesses.

Nowacki said it was never the intention of the agency to close all 24 stations that were initially on the list. After researching each station, some were taken off because of leases the agency could not get out of or the amount of revenue they generated was too much to walk away from, he said.

For now, only the South International Falls Finance Station will be shuttered and the Postal Service is looking at other ways to cut costs. The postmaster general asked Congress last week to consider reducing the amount of days of weekly mail delivery from six to five, which could save the agency $3.5 billion a year.

Also, the agency is eliminating all blue street mailboxes throughout the country that receive less than 25 pieces of mail a day, Nowacki said.

The Como Avenue and Seeger Square stations will remain open for the foreseeable future, Nowacki said, but he admits that in these times of uncertainty “you never say never.”

Kristal Leebrick is a freelance writer who lives in Saint Paul.

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