Bainbridge’s Paper Products also a tiny post office

At first glance, Paper Products doesn’t look much different these days than when its doors first opened in 1985. Kind of funky, packed with stuff from bow to stern, seemingly always busy, friendly folks behind the counter. All that and more.

Winslow Way business opens a contract postal unit.

At first glance, Paper Products doesn’t look much different these days than when its doors first opened in 1985. Kind of funky, packed with stuff from bow to stern, seemingly always busy, friendly folks behind the counter. All that and more.

When you walk the aisles, you realize this is much more than just an office supply store. Besides the typical stationery items, there are oodles of cards and gifts, party supplies, arts and crafts goodies over here, games and toys over there, scrapbooking and drafting materials. And there’s a copy center. And what’s this? A post office? A real post office?

That’s right. It’s a wee one, but since last month the store has become a contract postal unit that offers full service, except for money-order sales and PO boxes. It works this way: the store buys the postal supplies and then gets a commission (about 10 percent of sales) from the government; the store’s employees also serve as postal clerks.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it helps bring people in and makes us even more of a one-stop shopping area,” said owner Joanne McLeod.

McLeod and manager Cindy Black responded to a flyer dispatched about a year ago by the downtown post office, which asked if anyone was interested in installing a satellite office.

Postmaster Steve Blakeslee dispatched the SOS in an effort to resolve the overcrowding problem that occurs at certain times of the day and year. An expansion of the downtown station is improbable because of its location, so an “extension” was the next best thing.

“It’s a cost-effective way for us to provide more access for our customers,” Blakeslee said. “Putting the unit in Paper Products worked out for us and they have a very positive attitude and a great approach to it.”

A few businesses responded, but Paper Products was an obvious choice because of its central downtown location and being just a few hundred feet across Winslow Way from the post office. The convenience and closeness was perfect for the post office.

“It works for us, too” said Black, “and it’s great for (post office) customers because it gives them an option. And we’re close. people are beginning to find out about it being here.”

The new post office fits with McLeod’s ambition to continue expanding and improving the business, which has long been successful and a staple along Winslow Way. Because of strong support by the community, the store hasn’t changed much in 23 years. (It was started by Andrew Driscoll, who owned it for many years; there were two other owners prior to McLeod’s leap forward.)

McLeod, a single mother (Max is 7, Maggie 4), had never owned a business before purchasing the store in December 2006. But she had a background in ad specialty (marketing and branding), and the store now offers several commercial services to other island businesses. It also produces customized invitations for weddings and other events.

“The timing could have been better with the economy being down,” McLeod said, “but we’re doing OK. This has always been a healthy, prosperous business, so it’s more about just getting better at what we do. That kind of thing.”

McLeod, who commuted from the Mill Creek area for several months before buying a home here, said she enjoys living on the island.

“This has been a life transition kind of thing for me. I was a full-time mom with a job, but I guess I decided I wasn’t busy enough,” she said, laughing. “I found this business and the stars just kind of lined up for me. I think it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s certainly the right place for us. There’s such a sense of community. I love it.”

She admits that there’s not a lot of room left inside the store, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more additions. One will occur soon.

“We’re going to get a lighted post office sign for out front,” she said.

That’ll make it official.

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