Postal services not-so-handy after Yarmouth store loses contract
YARMOUTH — Countless customers have stopped in to Andy's Handy Store this month to buy candy bars, Italian sandwiches and cold bottles of beer.
But for the first time in nearly 15 years, they've been unable to purchase stamps or money orders or ship packages.
New owner Matthew Williams bought the variety store, a fixture on Main Street since the 1930s, from Tom and Andrea Hutchinson over the summer.
But it turned out postal contracts don't just transfer from one owner to the next; the U.S. Postal Service closed its account at the store in late September.
"They took my stamps, my scale, everything," Williams said. "But I'm fighting like crazy. I'm bugging the hell out of them to get it back."
Business has taken a big hit due to the loss of postal services, Williams said.
"People would come in for stamps and buy a sandwich," Williams said. "I was shipping 10 to 20 packages a day, and doing a lot of money orders. We could be losing 20 or 30 people every day.
"But the big point is, we're a community store," he said, "and the community misses the post office."
Williams put a petition at the cash register last week and encouraged customers to sign it in support of returning postal services to the store. He already has more than 200 signatures. When he has 400, he plans to bring the petition to a Portland post office.
He's not sure what that will accomplish, but he said he feels he has to try.
The USPS, for its part, has presented Williams with options for continuing stamp sales.
"That was the one thing they did say I could do," Williams said. "I'm going to look into it. But I think it's lame to just be able to do stamps."
"The sale of postage stamps comprises almost all of the postal activity and revenue at that location," Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the USPS Northern New England District, said in an email. "It would be irresponsible for the self-supporting US Postal Service, which receives no tax dollars, to contract out additional services when the distance to the full-service Yarmouth Post Office is a mere 0.7 miles away."
Yarmouth's post office was on Main Street, diagonally across from Town Hall, until the late 1990s, when it moved to Forest Falls Drive. Shortly thereafter, the Handy Store, under the ownership of Glenn and Susan McAllister at the time, entered a contract agreement with the USPS to provide services.
Why does Yarmouth need a contract post office in the Handy Store, when the Forest Falls Drive location is less than a mile away?
When longtime resident Jim Saunders Jr. came into the store on a recent afternoon for a newspaper and a cup of coffee, he said the corner of Main Street and Elm Street, where the Handy Store sits, is Yarmouth's crossroads.
"This is Yarmouth's Times Square, when all is said and done," he said. "The post office couldn't have thought of a better place to have a little auxiliary mail station. It's been a wonderful service. I do miss it. I hope the post office will revisit the subject before long and restore it."
Some customers said Main Street was just more walkable; others called the Handy Store a faster, more pleasant place to do business than the full-service branch.
Mark Storms, another Yarmouth resident, blamed the federal government while signing the petition.
"Putting a post office in here was one of the smartest things they ever did, and now they've taken it away," he said. "I'm fed up with the baloney. They have no conscience."
Williams said he's had trouble reaching the USPS, though he did speak to a representative about the possibility of reassigning the contract. In the meantime, he may start selling stamps.
He'll definitely keep trying to foster a community atmosphere in the store. Williams has replaced its Subway franchise with his own deli counter. His mother-in-law makes the baked goods. And he's behind the register every day, cracking jokes with the regulars and doling out the occasional freebie to neighborhood kids.
"We're trying to build a real community store here," Williams said. "We think the post office is part of that."