TERRE HAUTE —
Patrons at Smith’s Hardware store can now get a U.S. postage stamp or a flat-rate postal box, mail a letter or drop off a package for delivery while shopping for electrical switches, hammers or cleaning supplies.
The hardware store Thursday became the 18th Village Post Office (VPO) in the Greater Indiana District. Last year, the Postal Service introduced the VPO model as an alternative retail location for postal products and services, especially in rural communities.
“It is really a win-win for the business owner as well because they are teaming up with the Post Office brand and can bring in some foot traffic and increase their revenues,” said Rick Minton, acting manager of Post Office Operations for the Greater Indiana District.
“We are leading the nation in Village Post Office openings. Being a lifelong Hoosier, I think Hoosiers have a sense of community and rally around their rural post office, and it is an idea that has caught on really well in Indiana,” Minton said.
Minton visited the hardware store Thursday to help celebrate the hardware store’s new role.
The concept for VPOs came about in July 2011. Instead of closing Post Offices, reduced hours are to be implemented and a VPO “is just another opportunity for rural communities to have an extended period to sell stamps and [to] offer flat-rate packaging to customers and a collection place for mail to be picked up,” Minton said.
Dugger’s Post Office will likely reduce daily office hours in February down to six hours, instead of eight hours. It also closes early on Saturday. Smith’s Hardware store is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“These people are wonderful and you will not find anyone better,” Myrna Bargar of Dugger said of the hardware store owners while shopping for electrical switches. “I just don’t want the post office to close. I think we need our post office.”
“I think this will be good,” she said of the village post office, “as long as it does not close the post office.”
Karen White, also shopping at the store, moved to Dugger two years ago. “We buy stamps at the post office, but can [now] get them here. We are in here all the time. We spend a lot of money in here,” White said.
Mendy and Harry Smith have owned Smith’s Hardware for the past eight years.
Mendy Smith works at the store, while her husband works as an electrician. She had been a nurse and had worked four years as a part-time employee at Dugger’s U.S. Post Office. That’s where she learned of the VPO concept. The hardware store has a contract with the postal service and buys its stamps up front.
“We are doing this to supplement the hours that the post office will not be open. It is not to take anything away from it,” Smith said.
Smith said she hopes it will create more foot traffic for the hardware store at 8141 Indiana 54. A blue Postal box is now located near the front door of the business.
Two more VPOs — Cannelton and Dubois — are scheduled to open today, according to the Postal Service. The 100th VPO in the nation is scheduled to open in Linden on Dec. 19.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.