Harlan County’s first Village Post Office officially opened Thursday in the Big Laurel community with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Additional sites are expected to open in the near future.
Remembering a time when post offices were located in general stores, Turner’s Grocery is the first site for Harlan County, said coordinator for the Kentuckiana District Nick Walker. He said six or seven more will be opened throughout Harlan County.
A new initiative for Harlan County, Ann Epperson, co-owner of Turner’s Grocery, said she and her sister, Abby Walker, are excited to be a part of the Village Post Office program.
“This will enable people to get stamps and be able to mail packages when the post office is closed,” said Epperson. “Before, when the post office was closed, people had to go all the way to Bledsoe to get these things done. This will be a good thing for our community.”
Walker said the Village Post Office concept is currently being used across the United States. There are approximately 54 being utilized with nine of those being in the Kentuckiana District, which includes the state of Indiana.
“The window hours at the Big Laurel Post Office will be reduced to two hours per day five days a week during the winter months,” said Walker. “They will also be open from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturdays. The home delivery routes will not be affected in any way.”
Walker said the Village Post Offices will offer limited services, selling only stamps and flat-rate packaging.
“There is no weighing, minimal work from the store owners,” said Walker. “This will help the working man who can’t get to the post office during that two-hour period the window is open during the week. If for instance, the post office were to close — there were no qualified applicants or the lease is terminated by the leasee, then we can bring the post office boxes into this store or on the outside of the store.”
Walker said the post office boxes could be placed in rotary cabinets, which hold 60 number one boxes. He said the cabinets have a lock on them and a highway contract person would come and unlock the cabinet placing mail in the boxes.
“This is a really good concept and right now it’s exploding,” said Walker. “There are certain qualifications stores must meet in order to become a Village Post Office. In most cases, local business owners will see increased customer traffic and revenue, as well as the opportunity to provide enhanced service to their customers and clients.”
Attending the event, state Sen. Brandon Smith said he was excited to attend this “community initiative.”
“I’m a firm believer in community first and Frankfort second,” said Smith. “These people have done this on their own. They’ve organized it. It’s a success story. I’m just here to say thanks on behalf of the state for them taking this initiative. Many times communities, instead of waiting around for Frankfort or Washington to tell them to do something, take it on themselves to do something. This pleases me as a native of the mountains more so than as an elected official. I’m proud of this community and what they have done.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org