Not many out-of-towners step into the Lazear Post Office, but when they do, they're usually lost or looking for the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery.
"They stop by and ask where they are and I tell them, 'You're in downtown Lazear,'" said Lazear postmaster, Frank McPherson.
The post office is the obvious place to stop in and ask for directions when one is lost in Lazear. The small community, located off of Highway 92 on Rogers Mesa, is hardly a blip on a GPS. Look up and down the rural community's main street, also known as 3100 Road, and there's not much else. One might pass Leroux Creek Foods and Mountain View Bible Church, located between the many small farms and properties along the way, or stop and pick up farm-fresh eggs for $2/dozen.
People call ahead and ask him how they'll know where to find him once they get to town. He tells them, "Well, if you've found Lazear, you've found us.
"That's the only thing there is here," said McPherson. "Our business."
But if you never turn off of Highway 92 and onto the rural roads of Rogers Mesa you just might miss the Lazear Post Office. It's located inside Master Petroleum, just east of Apple Street.
The Lazear post office first opened in about 1912, said McPherson, although he's not positive about the date. It was created, along with thousands of other small, rural offices, as part of the U.S. Postal Service's Rural Free Delivery program. McPherson, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, spent his first 10 years as "postmaster relief" for Marie Nehring, who was postmaster when he arrived. He was sworn in as postmaster 20 years ago when Nehring transferred to the Somerset office.
The U.S. Postal Service has rented the space inside the Master Petroleum building, although McPherson doesn't know when the arrangement originally began. It's not unusual for small rural post offices to rent their space within another business, said McPherson. But it makes good business sense. For McPherson, it makes perfect sense, since he owns and manages Master Petroleum. Coutts & Company, an equipment and truck dealership, occupied the space before Master Petroleum, said McPherson, who brought the family-owned business over from his hometown of Silt 30 years ago. It used to be a general store, and in the early years McPherson tried stocking groceries. The food would get outdated before it sold and would have to be discarded. "People are more mobile today," said McPherson. "They don't think anything of driving a few miles to the nearest grocery store."
The store does carry soda and snacks, and farm-related items like work gloves, fencing, baling twine, and even metal roofing. Master Petroleum also supplies ethanol-free fuel to a few businesses in the area, including Reedy's in Paonia and all three mines.
Post offices this size, like the ones in Molina and Somerset, are one-person operations, but along with his duties at Master Petroleum, McPherson has plenty to do. "Not much space," said McPherson after accepting three large, flat boxes for mailing. But inside that small space he can do almost everything that the bigger post offices do, although he doesn't do passports or Global Express mailings. If he receives a package for shipping out that is too big to put in his relay box, he calls another post office to pick it up.
Of the 130 post office boxes, 45 are rented out. McPherson gets the mail in the boxes by 10 a.m., but customers usually show up at about 8 o'clock, six days a week, expecting their mail to be up. He doesn't have to worry about delivering mail, since most people on Rogers Mesa get their mail by street delivery, which comes out of the Hotchkiss office.
Master Petroleum's busy season is between spring and haying season, but at the post office window there's seldom a line, even on Saturdays. Because of that, some people use his services when other post offices are busy, like during Christmas mailing season. For times when it does get busy, Master Petroleum employs another person so McPherson can see to his postal customers.
The post office is open between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8-11:30 a.m. Saturdays. Master Petroleum operates 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
McPherson said he plans to retire from the post office side of the business in early 2014, but he'll still manage Master Petroleum.
"It's kind of the center of town," said McPherson after selling snacks to a couple of local boys. Over the years he said he has looked out for people, the elderly, kids. "You know all the families, all their kids," said McPherson. "It's personal service."blog comments powered by Disqus