By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
PORT TREVORTON — Hilsher’s General Store will serve as the first village post office in Central Pennsylvania beginning later this month as the U.S. Postal Service continues to cut costs nationwide.
The concept of a village post office in a general store is an old idea being resurrected by the cash-strapped agency to serve communities where traditional post offices are closing or window hours are being reduced.
On Jan. 25, Hilsher’s — at 5254 Routes 11-15 — will begin selling stamps and flat-rate boxes and serve as a mail drop-off location from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“The village center used to be the post office, and that can continue with community business owners offering their stores,” Selinsgrove Postmaster Michael Wolfberg said.
No decision has been made when window service hours will be shortened at the Port Trevorton post office at 3934 Routes 11-15, which employs three, but window hours at post offices in New Berlin, Kreamer, Freeburg and White Deer are slated to be reduced this month.
The U.S. Post Office is taking these steps at many of the country’s 27,000 post offices to stem financial losses that include a $2 billion decline in retail transactions in the past five years.
Establishing village post offices at existing local businesses, town halls or government centers will provide customers more convenience, including longer hours, and permit a community that loses its traditional post office to retain its ZIP code.
About 100 village post offices have been established across the country and Wolfberg expects many more will open to fill a need as traditional post office hours decline.
He said Hilsher’s location, atmosphere and staff are ideal for a village post office.
“It provides some of the big-city amenities, but has a small-town feel to it,” he said.
Port Trevorton resident and loyal Hilsher’s patron Marion Maneri said she’s looking forward to the extra service, adding one of the deciding factors for her and her husband to move to the town was the convenience of the general store.
Hilsher’s co-owner Sam Schoeppner is thrilled with the opportunity to increase business by providing another service.
“We don’t carry lumber or appliances, but that’s about it,” he said of the store that has a bakery and deli and also sells gasoline, clothing, shoes, home decor, hardware and bus tickets. “We don’t know what’s going to happen to the local post office, but we’re happy to offer some of the services.”