TERRE HAUTE —
Hours at the Clay City post office will be reduced later this year, but a new Village Post Office at the Millers IGA will help fill the gap.
On Tuesday, Russ and Lori Miller, as well as postal service representatives, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Village Post Office, VPO for short, at the supermarket, 6505 S. Indiana 59.
Shoppers are able to purchase stamps and flat-rate packaging at the supermarket seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The site also has a collection box for outgoing mail. VPOs are operated by local businesses who contract with the Postal Service.
As part of cost-cutting measures by the U.S. Postal Service nationwide, the Clay City post office is expected to reduce its hours of operation to six hours a day by October; Saturday hours would remain the same, officials said.
The reduced hours “is a strategy to save small post offices” yet still cut costs, said Mary Dando, USPS spokeswoman, who attended the ribbon-cutting. The VPO “is the model in rural America.”
Russ Miller said the postal service approached him and his wife about six months ago about operating a VPO.
He doesn’t expect the store to make a lot of money from the contract postal operation. “It’s more of a service,” he said. “We try as much as possible to be community-oriented.”
Rick Minton, the Bloomington postmaster, said the Village Post Office concept was introduced in 2011. It enables the postal service to partner with local businesses to provide an alternative way to purchase products and services.
The VPO at Millers IGA is the 56th in the greater Indiana district. “Hopefully, it will give them a little bit more foot traffic,” he said. The VPO concept “has caught on very well and is very popular in Indiana,” Minton said.
While Clay City post office hours will eventually be reduced, “people can come here [VPO] up to 9 p.m. in the evening to purchase stamps and priority flat rate packaging,” Minton said. The reduction in hours affecting Clay City and many other rural post offices is supposed to be in effect by the end of September.
The Millers, who are part of an independent grocery association, opened their supermarket 17 years ago. “We’ve been very blessed with business from the community,” Russ Miller said.
Dando said that before hours are reduced at the Clay City post office, a survey will be sent out to residents who live in the zip code covered and then a public meeting will be conducted.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.