End of an era: East Lake Post Office closes as landlord questions move

photo Developing Story

Every morning for the past 14 years, Dan Winton has come to the East Lake post office to pick up the checks, bills and other mail for ASA Enterprises, a tractor trailer facility just a few blocks from the East 34th Street postal facility.

"You couldn't ask for a more convenient location and personable staff and the mail was always very regular and dependable," ASA manager Winton said Friday as he picked up his mail for the last time at the post office that closes today. "It's too bad it had to shut down, but we're moving on."

The Postal Service is relocating the 30-year-old East Lake office to its Chattanooga South Station at 1101 W. 40th St. as part of its cost-cutting efforts.

"The Postal Service could not come to financial terms with the lessor," Chattanooga Postmaster Pete Dechelle said.

But the owner of the East Lake office doesn't understand such talk. Janis Green says she thought she had an agreement for a new 5-year lease with the post office -- at a lower rental rate than the previous contract. But she learned too late to do anything that the lease was ending.

"I don't think what they are doing is right or legal," she said. "I truly think the last-minute maneuverings were only so that there would be no time for organizing to keep it open."

Other owners of post office buildings leased to the Postal Service also have complained about such unexpected lease cutoffs, but after losing $16.2 billion last year and suffering lower but significant losses this year, the post office is being forced to trim its operations.

Green, 67, lives in a Dallas suburb and inherited the East Lake office from her mother four years ago. She was counting on the rent from the building for her retirement.

The one-year lease option for the building would have cost the U.S. Postal Service $50,600, she said.

The one person who still works at the East Lake office will be relocated to the Chattanooga South Station.

Winton said his business is moving its address into Georgia to pick up mail at the nearby Rossville Post Office.

"Unfortunately, there is going to be about a week delay, and we hope the mail delivery is as reliable because we depend upon it in our business," he said.

For others, the East Lake post office has been a community gathering spot.

Victor Bryant has been using the East Lake post office for the past 20 years and he'll miss the people who regularly use the local office.

"The counter staff here is superior and for many local people coming here has been a real ritual that we will all miss," he said. "But I understand the post office can't afford to have a location on every block and every corner; that's just not feasible any more when people are sending emails rather than letters."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.