Package deal: auto shop and post office
By PIPER JONES CASTILLO
© St. Petersburg Times,
She plans ahead, scheduling her doctor's appointment near Bayfront Hospital, and on the same day, she will shop and bank near the Williams Park bus terminal. She also leaves 15 minutes open to stop at the downtown post office before catching the bus back home.
"Charles drove everywhere, but now, I've still got bills to send just like everybody, and most important, I've got five grandchildren in Georgia who want my cards and packages," said the St. Petersburg native.
This summer, scheduling will be a bit easier for Pearson and others in her Big Bayou neighborhood. The U.S. Post Office has teamed up with Eddie's Auto Repair, 4001 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg. The auto shop will now house a contract postal unit offering stamps, certified mail and overnight shipping. It is the newest of the 14 retail businesses to become postal outlets in south Pinellas County.
It has been four years since the U.S. Post Office has had a service facility in the area.
Residents have been traveling either to the main post office, 3135 First Ave. N, or the downtown location at 76 Fourth St. N.
In 1997, the contract postal unit inside the Eckerd Drugs at 4260 Sixth St. S closed. Before the Eckerd site, a now-closed retail business next door to Munch's Sundries and Restaurant, 3920 Sixth St. S, offered postal services until its closing in 1991.
"I've wanted to do this for years," said Erasmo "Eddie" Pupo, owner of Eddie's. He, along with his wife, Irela, and son, William, plan to share duties for both the post office and the auto shop. William Pupo left his job as a mechanic at Autoway Dodge in Clearwater to join his father, and Mrs. Pupo divides her time among the shop, a job at Burdine's and babysitting her grandchildren, who live nearby.
"My biggest goal has always had to do with my family," Eddie Pupo said. "It's nice to work with them here. But I see the postal business as a service to the community."
The Pupos, who met while teenagers in Cuba, purchased the property in 1980 for $85,000, leasing the service station to Risser Oil Co. from 1985 until 2000. When the company did not renew the lease last year, the family decided to open their own business.
Gas pumps at the service station on Sixth Street S, a staple of the community for decades, are gone. Mailboxes will replace them. "It will be easy and safe for people to drive up and put the letters right into the mailboxes," Eddie Pupo said.
The 2,000-square-foot building includes both the garage where father and son work on cars as well as the 240-square-foot storefront for the post office.
"I originally approached the post office about doing this years ago," said Pupo, who has lived in St. Petersburg since 1972. "I asked them again last year, and they agreed."
"Listening to our customers, we analyzed the market and determined this area was a strong business and community choice," said Gregory Tafelski, supervisor of customer service support for the U.S. Post Office in St. Petersburg. "A competitive solicitation was posted and Mr. Pupo's proposal was successful."
"Contract units have been around for as long as anyone can remember, but now, they're getting more attention," Tafelski said.
The reason? The new postmaster.
"When postmaster Tom Pawlowski arrived last November, he committed to emphasizing expanding access to postal services," Tafelski said.
As postal contractors, the Pupos spent $5,000 renovating the store. They are responsible for security, parking, painting and handicap access. The post office brought in shelving, signs, computers and supplies.
A postal employee worked with the family for one week, instructing them how to handle the computerized scales and learning the postal system.
"My son is the good one on the computer," Pupo said. "I like to be the one that bosses everyone around. "Seriously, this will be good not only for the neighborhood, but it will be good for us too. It will bring people to our business."
Gloria Pearson is pleased with the business' new service.
"I love staying near my house," Mrs. Pearson said after buying stamps at Eddie's last Friday.
Eddie's Auto Repair is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Contract postal unit locations
There are 14 U.S. Postal Contract Units, retail businesses offering stamps, certified mail and overnight shipping in south Pinellas County.
Eddie's Auto Repair, 4001 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg
Gift Shelf, 2850 34th St. N, St. Petersburg
Fourth Street Shipping, 2808 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg
Beach Bazaar, 3115 Beach Blvd., Gulfport
Little Pelican, 16919 Gulf Blvd., Redington Beach
Carde Shoppe, 5045 34th St. S, St. Petersburg
All-Star Management, 5480 58th St. N, Kenneth City
Goldmark Travel/Travel Agents International, 5901 Sun Blvd., Tierra Verde
Books and Bagels on the Beach, 119 108th Ave., Treasure Island
Screen Test, 9061 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park
Mail Boxes Express, 3993 Tyrone Blvd., St. Petersburg
Mail Boxes Etc., 204 37th Ave. N, St. Petersburg
Mail Boxes Etc., 200 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg
Mail Boxes Etc., 6860 Gulfport Blvd. S, Gulfport
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