12626748289?profile=RESIZE_710xIt’s farewell to the small community post office tucked in behind Highland Beach Town Hall. Scenes from the last day:
ABOVE: Valerie Jacoby, the postal clerk for 24 years, is ready for retirement. Her plans were part of the reason the town decided to close the office. Photos by Tim Stepien/
The Coastal Star

 

Post office closes after 60 years of service on small-town scale

By Rich Pollack

The visitors to the tiny post office tucked behind Highland Beach Town Hall came one by one — some with packages to be mailed, some with flowers and some with candy.

A few of those stopping by on what would be the community post office’s final day were there to take care of business, but most were there to say goodbye to the people behind the counter and to the little outpost itself, which has been a convenience and a social gathering place for six decades.

“This post office has been a mainstay for us locals and it’s heartbreaking to see it go,” said longtime resident Virginia Bradford, who made one last visit. “It’s a terrible thing.”

With its roots going back to 1964, the Highland Beach community post office was first and foremost a hassle-free way for residents to buy stamps, mail packages and take care of basic postal services.

It started, initially in Town Hall, before the Spanish River Boulevard bridge opened in 1971 and the Linton Boulevard bridge opened in 1981. That meant residents had to drive to Palmetto Park Road or Atlantic Avenue to get to a downtown post office in either Boca Raton or Delray Beach.

Over the years, it evolved into a small outpost, still providing a convenience to those who bicycle, walk or drive from nearby condos or even from neighboring beachfront communities.

A series of decisions by the U.S. Postal Service, combined with the retirement of longtime clerk Valerie Jacoby, led to the mid-May demise of what some called a throwback to days when a small-town post office was about a lot more than mail.

“People describe it as being like Mayberry,” Jacoby said. “We got to know a lot of people by name and we thought of them not just as customers but also as friends.”

Town commissioners closed the doors after the Postal Service decided to stop allowing the community post office to use its credit card machine, followed by a requirement that a check for all transactions be sent at the end of each day.

The town, which derived little if any revenue from the post office — all the money collected went to the Postal Service — estimated a savings of about $160,000 a year by not having to operate the facility.

Regulars who had been coming to the town post office for decades say they will miss Jacoby, who had already announced her retirement and has moved to Lake Placid, as well as John Fitzpatrick, the last in a line of a handful of part-time clerks in the last 20 years who residents say served as Jacoby’s trusted sidekick.

They will also miss the little touches.

Visitors to the post office were greeted with a small table and chair outside the door where they could sit and fill out forms for registered or certified mail. As they walked in, they strolled past an ever-present boombox adorned with an aluminum foil antenna to help pick up a station playing music from years past.

On the back wall, behind the counter, hung a giant American flag.

“It was like a throwback in time,” said regular visitor Bonnie Hirsch. “It was like an old neighborhood community post office.”

12626749654?profile=RESIZE_710xJacoby gets a hug from Bonnie Hirsch, a longtime customer.

To add to the homey atmosphere, Jacoby would make it a point to decorate for the holidays. The post office would transform into red, white and blue for Independence Day, green with shamrocks for St. Patrick’s and be adorned with red and white candy canes during the holiday season.

“These little things are not taken for granted,” said Dale Echeverria, a business owner who stopped by three or four times a week to send out certified or registered mail to customers.

Jacoby, who worked in a small-town post office in Illinois before taking the Highland Beach job in 2000, often called on her experience to help customers.

“She saved me money, just giving me advice,” Echeverria said.

12626749877?profile=RESIZE_710xBusiness owner Dale Echeverria exits his car to drop off his last batch of mail.

One reason she could be available to help customers was that most of the time, except for the holidays and tax time, there was hardly ever a line.

And even when there was, visitors spent the time talking to one another and sharing stories.

“If you had to wait, it was a pleasure,” Hirsch said.

Since the town’s post office closed on May 14, residents have been able to use two contract post offices across the Spanish River and Linton Boulevard bridges, at Postal Sweets CPU, 4060 N. Dixie Highway, and  at Pak It Tight, 335 E. Linton Blvd.

Of course, it’s not the same.

“You won’t get the personal service you get here,” resident Jim Mueller said.

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