Patrons of the Kenosha Café now can order a side of postage stamps with their biscuits and gravy.
The café in Grant, more than 6 miles from Shawnee, is now home to Colorado’s first village post office.
The full-service Grant post office closed this spring, and the U.S. Postal Service put a post office in Shawnee, to the chagrin of Grant residents.
“We were left with the choice of driving 20 miles round trip to get our mail or trying to do something about it,” said Kenosha Café owner Scott Dugan, adding that he offered his building. “This is what they came up with.”
The “village post office” will handle only basic services: The rural carrier for the area will sort the mail into boxes that are now outside the café. The café will sell stamps and can handle shipping flat-rate boxes and envelopes, said Postal Service spokesman David Rupert.
“For the weird stuff, you’re going to have to go to town,” Rupert said.
The village post office concept came out of the Postal Service’s scrutiny of its finances in recent years. Officials initially considered closing more than 3,600 rural post offices nationwide. Residents in rural areas objected, however, and the idea of the village post office was born: close the full-time office but offer the most needed services at an already existing community building.
“In this instance, it was the perfect situation,” Rupert said.
The village post office idea doesn’t work everywhere. In some rural areas, the post office is the only business in town because banks, gas stations and schools may have closed, Rupert said. In these locales, there might not be a business that can host the office. And the town’s residents have to want it.
“It’s commitment and it’s trust and it’s everybody working together to make it happen, so in a lot of ways it’s not about the bottom dollar,” Rupert said. “It’s about providing a service.”
More than 30 village post offices have been opened across the country, but the Grant location is the first in the district, which includes Colorado and Wyoming.
Rupert said the Postal Service doesn’t have a set number of rural post offices it wants to close yet or a projected number of village post offices it wants to open. About 140 mail-processing plants are closing or consolidating, but none in Colorado.
The new Grant Village post office hopefully will serve more than one purpose, Dugan said.
“We’re hoping that it’s not only a post office but turns our little café into a little bit more of a community center,” Dugan said, “a spot where people can congregate, see each other.”
If growing a community also means growing Dugan’s business, he won’t complain, and neither will the Postal Service.
“We can help a business thrive, and they can help us provide a service,” Rupert said. “And really, in this economy, why not?”