A community staple, Cloverdale’s mail center will be closing its doors at the end of this month. According to owner Laurie Kneeland, the decision to close the shop is in part because of Kneeland wanting to retire and aided by the continued decrease in revenue from people shipping packages. Mail Center, Etc.’s last day open will be June 30.
The 34-year-old business has been in Cloverdale for 14 years, before which it was located in various locations in Santa Rosa.
Kneeland moved her business up to Cloverdale following rising rent prices in Santa Rosa; the location has since become way more than a shipping center. Rather, Mail Center, Etc. has become a sort-of community hub — it serves as a See’s Candies selling venue directly benefiting the Cloverdale Kiwanis Key Club, a ticket vendor for the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, an occasional meeting place for the Kiwanis Club of Cloverdale, a secondary donation collection location for places like the Cloverdale Food Pantry, among other things.
Since its opening, the mail center has existed in the same building at 207 North Cloverdale Boulevard — first taking up the entire space, then sharing it with Cloverdale Computer and then most recently with the Cloverdale Reveille (the Reveille moved out of the building in the end of May).
Fourteen years ago, the center took up the entire inside of the building, with numerous card racks, a more defined shipping center and a busier copy and fax area. However, changing technology and shipping practices began impacting business.
Kneeland said that she decided to retire in part because, after running the center for 34 years, she’s tired. Another main reason, though, is the increase in people dropping off prepaid packages, which don’t bring in any revenue for the center.
“You can blame Amazon; you can blame any big corporation who prepays everything,” she said. “It just sinks the mail centers; they don’t make any money any more. We have no kickback from that. The business just hasn’t been doing well for the last three or four years because of that.”
“The business just wasn’t profitable anymore,” Kneeland added.
A devoted member of the community, Kneeland has been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Cloverdale — something she’ll continue to be part of in retirement.
“I’ve decided to retire because I’m tired. But, I will be keeping active with my volunteer work,” she said. “I also still have my notary commission; I will continue that.”
Kneeland said that in preparation for the center shuttering its doors, she’s getting rid of a large portion of items — card racks, shipping materials and many of the other items either used or sold at the mail center. People who walk in the front doors of the shop will see items set aside in the front, with a sign asking people to name their price.
Along with working on getting things out of the building, Kneeland said that she’s also working out ways to continue many of the services that Mail Center, Etc.
“I will be working with the (Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce) so that we can continue having See’s Candies in Cloverdale. We are working to continue to sell See’s Candies through the chamber and also continue to sell tickets for nonprofit funding and stuff, and for the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center,” she said.
Once she works out final details, there will also be a sign on the door of the main center with more details on where people can go to drop off packages, namely FedEx, which doesn’t have a Cloverdale location.
For Kneeland, one of the things she’ll miss the most about her time owning Mail Center, Etc. is being part of the community and being able to facilitate and help out community groups through the store.
“That was my happiness, being able to help people,” she said. “That was my lifeline; I enjoyed (seeing) everybody. I think one of the biggest joys I had is when the little kids came in and sang Christmas carols and decorated the tree, stuff like that.”
She added that one of the things she’ll really miss is the challenge of custom packing.
“I’m going to miss the idea of a challenge when people bring weird stuff in,” she said.
In her 34 years of running Mail Center, Etc., by far the oddest experience that Kneeland had was when she was asked to ship a snake. The shipment came into the Santa Rosa shop.
“The guy told me that it was well-fed, not to worry about it. This really stands out — my mother was working with me at the time and I didn’t tell her. I just kept walking by it, and all of the sudden the box started to move,” she said, laughing.
She added that she’s thankful that she hasn’t had any similar shipping situations in the recent past.
What’s she looking forward to the most about retirement? Not having to wake up early.
“The life of leisure, being able to travel a little bit and see a little bit of the United States, just lay back and do nothing,” she said.
Kneeland reiterated that, even though Mail Center, Etc. is closing, she’ll still be around town. The phone number of Mail Center, Etc. will also still be active, so folks can still give it a ring after June 30 and Kneeland will be able to direct them to where they need to go.
“I will be out. I will be around. If I’m not protesting, I’ll be in the food line somewhere,” she said, meaning she’ll still be around to help dish out the food at Kiwanis fundraisers.