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1st village P.O. in state opens today in Erving

ERVING — Ralph Semb is taking a step back in time as he takes one into the future.

Today, the owner of French King Bowling Center, who recently opened Weatherheads Convenience Store next door on Route 2, is celebrating the grand opening of the state’s first “village post office,” according to Maureen Marion, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service.

“There are more than 31,000 post offices across the nation, and Erving is one of 175 village post offices opening today,” said Marion. “The goal of this type of post office is to help expand services, particularly in more rural areas.”

The smaller version of a post office will be run behind one of the counters in Semb’s store.

There was a time, about 300 year ago, when almost every post office was a “village post office,” which, in most cases, was a counter in a general store or tavern where limited postal business could be conducted.

Semb said he is thrilled to go back to that at his store, which also houses a Dunkin’ Donuts. He said customers will find a “one-stop shop,” where they can buy stamps, post mail to a Priority Mail box, buy a few groceries, and get themselves a coffee and doughnut.

“It will be so convenient for residents, travelers, and people who are passing by on their way home from work,” he said.

Semb said the Postal Service put a request out for business owners to apply to sell stamps and collect Priority Mail flat rate packages and envelopes.

In the past few years, the Postal Service has closed post offices across the nation, or reduced their hours, to save money.

Erving Post Office, which is across the street from the bowling center, is one of about 1,350 around the nation that has had to reduce its hours. Erving is now open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“People will be able to get stamps every day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. here,” said Semb.

He said the Postal Service has contracted with him to sell stamps and collect pre-paid boxes and envelopes.

“There are a lot of services we won’t provide,” said Semb. “We won’t weigh packages or do anything like that, but at least people can get a stamp. We’ll be the mini version of a post office.”

Today’s village post offices are commonly found in stores, libraries and town halls.

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