The first time Rick Straub set eyes on her, he fell in love.
She was old fashioned, but Straub didn’t mind that. Surrounded by the glow of Christmas lights and festive decorations, he thought she looked radiant.
Eight years later, the small-town postmaster still adores the Valleyford Post Office. And he has mixed feelings about leaving her behind.
Next spring, residents of Valleyford, located about 10 miles south of the Spokane Valley, will get a spacious new 2,500-square-foot post office. It will replace the current one, which measures just 190 square feet and is nestled in the corner of the turn-of-the-century Valleyford Store building.
Once a community hub, the old-time country store closed down two years ago. The days then became quieter for Straub, who has just two mail carriers who make deliveries to about 500 rural homes.
An average day brings in just 40 or 50 customers.
“This has been a real old country post office, and we’re going to miss that,” said Straub, who always dreamed of being a small-town postmaster.
Of course, he won’t miss the piles of parcels that routinely cover his desk, counter and floor. He won’t miss bumping into his letter carriers, or moving stacks of mail when he needs to get into a drawer or cupboard.
In the new Valleyford Post Office, Straub will finally have counter space, room for displaying merchandise and a 24-hour lobby. The new lobby, he said, will be bigger than the old post office.
Still, the postmaster said, it won’t have the same charm.
The first time Straub saw the Valleyford Post Office, it was decked out in Christmas lights and decorations. It looked like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
“I thought I was in heaven,” said Straub, who jumped at the chance to work there, despite his 30-mile commute from north Spokane.
The quiet postmaster will spend one last Christmas season at the old post office, a mixed blessing since the stacks of packages become almost unmanageable in the tiny office. By late spring, postal officials hope to open the new post office just down the road, where the Palouse Highway intersects Madison Road.
Construction could start as early as next month, said David Miller, a project manager with the U.S. Postal Service. Bad weather could delay the start until spring, but even then, it will take just three months for Spokane developer Harlan Douglass to build the new post office, Miller said.
The brick building will be more visible and modern, postal officials said. Instead of calculating rates on a metal fan scale, Straub will have computers to do it for him.
It will save his customers some time - although few Valleyford residents seem eager to dash in and out as they drop off their letters.
Straub knows most of them by name. He enjoys chatting with them about kids and karate lessons and town news. “We’re like friends,” the postmaster said.
A new building won’t change that.
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