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Is the post office leaving Winslow?
Maybe, but its departure could keep T & C downtown.
***This story has been changed because the original version misstated the ownership of the Post Office land.***
Though tucked behind a building off of Winslow Way, the Winslow Post Office is a familiar sight – and stop – for many islanders.
Some visit routinely. Others only drop the occasional letter in a blue mailbox on their way to neighboring Town & Country.
And of course, along with its utility, there are other bonuses to stopping by.
“It’s really a social thing,” said Councilwoman Kim Brackett, who’s among those wondering about the building’s future.
The Winslow Post Office is poised for change, according to United States Postal Service officials, city leaders and T & C President Larry Nakata, whose grocery store may expand to the adjacent USPS-owned land on which the existing post office building sits.
The USPS is hosting a public meeting at 5 p.m. July 22 at the Commons to discuss the future of the facility, which was built in 1973.
Postal service spokesman Ernie Swanson declined to give details about the meeting or the postal service’s plans, but an expansion or possible move from downtown is in the works, according to a July 7 letter to Mayor Darlene Kordonowy from USPS Seattle District Manager Harold Matz.
“The Postal Service has determined that the present postal facility is inadequate to serve future postal needs,” the letter says. “We need to expand operations to enhance both the quality of postal services we provide to your community and our employees’ working conditions.”
One option is to expand at the current site, the letter says. Another would be to relocate to a different building or build an entirely new facility at a different site.
The existing building is just under 6,500 square feet and sits on a roughly 45,000-square-foot lot owned by the postal service; it is the workplace of 40 postal employees.
Postal service officials said an ideal facility would be an 8,000-square-foot building on a 75,000-square-foot site.
Moving the postal facility could open the door for an expansion of T & C, something the grocery store’s owners have long desired.
Nakata on Tuesday confirmed the store and postal service were discussing a possible deal, but declined to give details until after the meeting next week.
A new post office could be built between McDonald’s and Ace Hardware on High School Road, on a parcel owned by T & C, Nakata said.
“Yes, we have been talking with them,” Nakata said. “But there is no firm decision. It really is the (postal service’s) story and I want to honor that.”
Kordonowy said she’s spoken with both Nakata and postal officials about the deal.
The city’s only role to this point has been to help schedule and give notice about the public meeting, and to advocate for maintaining a post office of some kind in Winslow, Kordonowy said.
“This is a legal real estate transaction between the federal government and a property owner,” she said. “Keeping a retail post office presence downtown is very important, and Larry understands and agrees with that.”
A contract postal unit opened earlier this year at Paper Products, Etc., on Winslow Way. It offers full service, except for money-order sales and post office boxes. The store buys the postal supplies and gets a commission – about 10 percent of sales – from the government; the store’s employees also serve as postal clerks.
Both Nakata and the letter from postal service officials said postal customers should still be served in Winslow if the post office is moved elsewhere.
“In the event another building or site must be identified, every effort will be made to maintain a postal presence in the downtown business area of Bainbridge Island,” the letter says.
Moving the post office would be good news for those who want T & C – which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary – to continue to anchor the downtown.
Without a viable expansion plan, some have speculated it would be T & C – and not the post office – moving out of Winslow.
Chamber of Commerce Director Kevin Dwyer said the rumored post office move, if it happens, would be preferable.
“It’s a great deal,” Dwyer said. “It sends the message that T & C, which is an iconic business, is committed to staying in downtown Winslow.”
“I hope some people see it as a reason to celebrate,” she said. “It would mean keeping our main grocery store downtown.”