Monday, August 1, 2011

Community-owned Post Offices

The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service is planning to close thousands of low-traffic post offices across the country. Some are in big cities like New York and Chicago, but many are in sparsely populated rural areas such as Waverly, Washington and Mountain City, Nevada. In all, 12% of the nation's post offices could be closed. The U.S. Postal Service is looking to partner with small businesses to fill the void, reports MSNBC.

There's another model that communities about to lose their snail may want to consider. In the U.K., where hundreds of rural shops, pubs and post offices (or combination of the three, as is common) have closed in recent years, communities are banding together to own and operate their own shops and post offices, which are at the center of village life.

The village of Berrynarbor in Devon (population: roughly 750) is one example. In 2004, it was faced with the closing of its only shop and post office when the postmaster was to retire. Today, the post office—which also sells groceries and operates a cafe—is owned by the community and staffed by nearly 30 volunteers. There are around 250 such community-owned shops in the U.K., including 40 that opened in 2010 alone, according to the Plunkett Foundation. 

In these cost-slashing days, it's a model to keep in mind.


Gerrit Botha said...

I found this very interesting. That sounds about like the only way small communities can keep open some essential services. We here in Canada are facing similar pressures. We haven't had Saturday services forever. I think the UK model has a lot to recommend itself to North America and would be interested to see if it starts happening here. I live in a small village and the post office is small and there is no home delivery; only to grouped post boxes on street corners. It is close to borderline sustainable and it wouldn't surprise me to see this community have to save it's post office according to the UK model.

Sustainable Living Blog

Andrea Dono said...

Downtown Washington Inc in Missouri is a nonprofit community revitalization group. With their partners, they bought the recently shuttered post office, rehabbed it, and will operate the postal services on their own - keeping an important service downtown, creating jobs, and maintaining a historic building. Very cool project - read more here

Amy Cortese said...

Thanks for both of those examples! I will be writing more about community ownership soon...

Andrea Dono said...

Amy, are you interested in sharing the ideas that you present in your book at our annual conference? The National Main Streets Conference will be in Baltimore April 1-4, 2012, and our audience of revitalization/economic development professionals would be a great group to inspire with creative ways to keep more dollars local.

Amy Cortese said...

Andrea, that sounds like a wonderful conference. Email me at and we can discuss.


Mikaela D'Eigh said...

Jenn Risko over at Shelf Awareness, just did a piece on your book, so I came over to check it out. What great ideas! I've always been an advocate of buying local as much as possible, but you take it to the next level. Bravo! I look forward to reading the book and hearing more about winning back our communities!

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