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Holiday Center’s postal transfer station to close

Snyders employee Melissa Carlson waits on David Fleissner (right) at the U.S. Postal Service’s transfer station in Duluth’s Holiday Center, while owner Reijo Rahkola watches. The USPS is closing the station Sept. 28. (Steve Kuchera / / 3
Reijo Rahkola owns the Snyders convenience store in downtown Duluth’s Holiday Center. The U.S. Postal Service transfer station at the store is slated for closure at the end of September. (Steve Kuchera / 2 / 3
A closure notice is posted above the scheduled hours of the post office in the Holiday Center. The notice lists contact information for customers to share concerns with the U.S. Postal Service. (Steve Kuchera / / 3

It won’t be long before Reijo Rahkola will have to make some big decisions about his new business.

The U.S. Postal Service is closing its transfer station at Snyders convenience store in downtown Duluth’s Holiday Center on Sept. 28.

Rahkola, 43, and a Snyders employee for 10 years, bought the store from his brother-in-law and took over as owner Aug. 14.

Suddenly, he’s perplexed as to why he’s losing one of the store’s major features.

“We do $30,000 in money orders the first of every month,” Rahkola said. “We do everything except for overseas shipping.”

Rahkola said he’d been working out contract renewal details with USPS officials and believed everything was on track. Things changed when the contract went to corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Corporate decided to shut us down for six months to ‘see if we need you,’ ” he said. “It’s just not right.”

For its part, the USPS said it re-evaluates every contract after a store is sold.

“When a business is transferred, the contract is always null and void,” said Stacy St. John, a Postal Service spokesperson based in Iowa City, Iowa.  

“The biggest thing with Snyders is we don’t write contracts that way any longer,” St. John said, explaining that the USPS furnishes the store’s transfer station with stamps to sell. “That’s basically one of the big differences now. Contract postal units are accountable for their own stamps.”

Rahkola said the store was paid a monthly flat fee for its transfer station, and that all profits — between $500,000 and $750,000 annually, he estimated — went directly to the Postal Service. Snyders supplied and paid the employees using the monthly fee.

He appreciated the station for its presence as an attraction, drawing customers into the back of the store.  

Rahkola speculated that the existence of a transfer station in the federal building on West First Street may have given the USPS pause. But customers there have to go through the federal building’s security screening in order to send mail.

“It’s an inconvenience,” he said. “We do big business with the people in the high-rises. We’re so much more convenient.”

St. John said a review of Snyders won’t necessarily take six months and that it’s possible another contract could be offered to the store sooner than that.  

But Rahkola isn’t going to hold his breath.

While he’s calling leaders from the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Downtown Council and the city in hopes they’ll apply pressure on the Postal Service, he’s also considering other options — such as a beer cave.

He said he won’t wait around while the USPS does its review, and he questioned the decision to close Snyders’ transfer station in the wake of the Postal Service’s planned closure of the Duluth mail processing center as soon as January.

“They’re doing things backwards,” Rahkola said. “They make money here. You think they’d keep it going.”