INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Keys once lost and now found. Wallets and IDs. Retainers and dentures. The list of items the employees at Postal Express have shipped back to customers is long and contains just about anything.
Even toilet paper.
Stevie Herrera remembers shipping a customer’s 16-roll pack that was purchased during the sales at Black Friday one year.
“I don’t understand it,” she said with a laugh. “People got the toilet paper for a great deal, but then paid money to ship it to New York.”
One of the most common items shipped out from Postal Express isn’t what most people would guess. The items are large and brown, they grow on trees, and visitors to Tahoe are enamored and can’t seem to get enough of them.
“People come in and say, ‘okay this is really weird…’ and we always tell them, ‘nope, every tourist sends home pine cones,’” Herrera said.
Postal Express owner Dema Herrera always tells customers that “they are not alone” and said she reassures them that Postal Express ships pine cones to different parts of the U.S.
EXPERT PACKER FITS PROFESSION
Dema is an expert packer of not only prickly pinecones, but any item that a customer needs shipped. The business owner moved from California to Hawaii twice in her lifetime and boasts of breaking only one dinner plate.
“That’s how I knew that this was the right profession for me,” Dema said of her business.
Although she misses her friends, family and the weather of the Aloha State, Dema has established just as much of a sense of community in Incline Village.
“One of the most important things is that we all get along and we all know our customers,” Dema said.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL BUNCH
Any given day at Postal Express, one can find brown boxes from Amazon.com and Zappos stacked against the walls, and employees marking and moving boxes, sorting mail and bustling about.
Customers come and go, never failing to strike up a conversation with the employees. The relationships formed at Postal Express have lasted as long as the business itself.
“We have customers that have been coming here since we opened,” said employee Derrick Ament. “We have pretty close relationships and know each other on a first name basis.”
Ament is classified by coworkers as “the muscles and the brain.” Zuleika Jimenez is the Spanish expert, Stevie tells the jokes, and Maggie, the 14-year-old basset hound, is an official greeter.
Though as the long-faced pup has gotten older, her days at Postal Express are getting shorter.
“We don’t work her full time,” Dema said of her dog. “We respect our elders.”
Postal Express’s up-and-coming greeter is Emmett, the timid three-year-old boy who is learning to help out.
“He’ll be the CEO of UPS some day,” Stevie said of her son. “He wants to drive a monster truck, but a UPS monster truck.”
‘SOMETHING THAT REALLY BOOMS’
To accommodate the increase in customers, Postal Express added two extra sets of mailboxes last year and now nearly all of the 550 boxes are full.
And the business’s specialized mail forwarding is useful for clients who live in different parts of the country. Postal Express also offers copying services and notaries.
“People are really grateful to find out that we do notaries,” Stevie said. “The prices are lower in Nevada and it’s the kind of service that once you get the word out it’s something that really booms.”
Although business hasn’t decreased, Dema said it has changed drastically. She guesses that it was about five years ago when she saw a decline in hand-written letters and bill pay via post.
The daily sorting of mail used to take about four hours, Dema remembers, and nowadays can be as quick as 45 minutes.
“Personalized mail is a dying communication form,” Dema said.
Although with the popularity of online shopping and mailed advertising, the owner of Postal Express doesn’t see a major impact to her business.
“I can’t imagine what would ever take the place of mail,” she said.
Jenny Luna is a local freelance writer based in Truckee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
“One of the most important things is that we all get along and we all know our customers.”