Opened in 1914, the doors to the Harmony post office officially closed Thursday, putting it on the early edge of what’s becoming a new wave of proposed postal closures across the nation.
The North Coast station was actually closed to patrons in 2008, but the U.S. Postal Service held off making the closure permanent until Thursday. The office is being replaced by metal mailboxes along the only street of the tiny town.
The closure notice was to be published in the official record as of Thursday, according to James Wigdel, spokes-man for the U.S. Postal Service. The bureaucratic document also will serve as a sort of unemotional obituary for a piece of community history, a throwback to Harmony’s former dairy and cheese-making heyday.
When the branch in a rented space in the historic Harmony Creamery closed three years ago, the post office cited safety concerns. Since then, the office has lingered in bureaucratic limbo.
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According to local authorities, 3,700 post office closures are planned or in progress. The Postal Service operates more than 31,000 offices, down from 38,000 a decade ago, according to its website.
Six of the branches facing closure are in the local postal district; the closest to San Luis Obispo County is the Casmalia branch outside Santa Maria, said Gerry Kalar, Cambria postmaster. She said the service ultimately could shut down about 10,000 branches.
Debbie Duarte of Bakersfield stopped by Harmony this week with her family. As she peeked in the former postal branch’s doors, she said with a sad look on her face, “They closed it. We used to buy stamps in here.”
Duarte figured she’d been visiting Harmony and the North Coast on weeklong vacations for at least 35 years and said she’ll miss the little post office. When it was still open, “it seemed like there was more to see, and it was a little more lively” in the town, as postal-box holders sent packages, picked up their mail and nearly always stopped to chat.
Harmony residents and those with post office boxes at the branch said they had no illusions about the prospects for the office reopening. A notice posted March 29 gave patrons one final, 30-day opportunity to write the Postal Service to protest the pending permanent closure. There were no protests, Wigdel said Thursday.
Longtime Harmony resident Betty O’Dell said, “Of course, we’re not surprised about the post office closing. I thought that’s what was happening from the very beginning (of the shutdown), but I guess legally they couldn’t say that at the time.”
She said she still recalls visiting Molinari family members in Harmony as a child and going along for the ride when her uncle, Delphino Molinari, “cranked up the old pickup truck, and he’d go down to weigh the cream on the scale on the back of the post office.” She said the postmistress “still had ice cream there, so I never wanted to miss the trip to deliver the cream.”