By Mary Thurwachter
Close the Lantana Post Office? Now that’s just nuts — or coconuts, in this case.
So say town leaders and about 150 fans from Lantana and surrounding communities who convened for a rally in the parking lot between the post office and the library last month.
To deliver the punch, fans of the Ocean Avenue post office sent more than 500 coconuts to Postmaster General John E. Potter in Washington, D.C. Coconuts harvested by city workers and others were given away at the Oct. 21 rally so that supporters of the mail station being considered for closing could pen messages on them.
Lantana Mayor David Stewart and Town Manager Mike Bornstein were some of the first to donate money toward mailing the large, oval brown seeds to D.C. Others carried coconut messages into the post office one by one, paying $4 and up to deliver them.
“We really couldn’t use taxpayer money to mail them,” Stewart said. Those who preferred a more traditional form of support helped the cause by adding signatures to petitions and filling out comment cards that were due by Oct. 25.
Debbie Fetterly, spokeswoman for the United States Postal Service for the South Florida District, said that of the 13 locations in South Florida considered for closure, there’s been more local interest expressed for the Lantana office than any other. Nationwide, 371 locations are being studied.
While some questioned the use of coconuts, Bornstein, also known as the Barefoot Mailman re-enactor, said the method has a historical base.
“Sometimes friends of the Barefoot Mailman would pay the postage on a coconut and he would be obliged to carry it on his journey, a six-day roundtrip, barefoot walk between Palm Beach and Miami on the beach.” Town officials thought the tie to the Barefoot Mailman story would be a unique way to express their feelings to the postmaster general, Bornstein said. (And, by the way, it’s still legal to ship coconuts through the mail without boxes as long as the address is legible.)
Besides Bornstein and Stewart, dignitaries at the rally included County Commissioners Shelley Vana and Steven Abrams, along with mayors and representatives of neighboring towns that use the Lantana Post Office, including Hypoluxo, Atlantis, Manalapan and South Palm Beach.
Santa Claus, in suspenders and white-fur-fringed red shorts, was there to lend his backing, too.
Good wishes came from the sky as well, from an airplane pulling a banner that read “We are nuts about our Lantana PO.” Abrams added “they’d have to be nuts to close this post office.”
Lantana council member Elizabeth Tennyson said she’s never been to the post office when there wasn’t a line. “It’s the heart of our downtown.”
But Stewart acknowledged it would be tough to make the branch look profitable. “The numbers don’t look good and we know the postal service is trying to run a profitable service,” he said.
“They need to look at this as a service,” Stewart said. “We’ve got a group of elderly people who use the post office. Not everyone pays bills on the Internet.
“Our post office is very busy and having to travel to another city to mail letters and packages and pick up certified mail, etc. will be a tremendous inconvenience to our residents and business owners.” Fetterly said no matter what the U.S. Postal Service decides, the branch will be open through the holidays. In the meantime, fans of the Lantana Post office are keeping their fingers crossed.
And Postmaster General Potter has to figure out just what to do with all those coconuts.