The owner of The Gift Shelf in St. Petersburg said she will likely have to close her business in a couple of months because the U.S. Postal Service is terminating their contract in February.
"This is devastating for me. I have no other income and all of a sudden I’m going to be without a lot of money," said owner MaryEllen Waskiewicz. "I can’t keep this place open without the help of the Postal Service revenue."
Waskiewicz said the location at 2850 34th Street North in St. Petersburg has had a Contract Postal Unit since 1962. She took over the business nearly 17 years ago and said 75 percent of her revenue comes from that CPU.
"3,000-to-3,500 customers a month come in here," said Waskiewicz. "The postal revenue is close to $350,000 a year and we get a percentage of that."
The Gift Shelf owner said she can't get a clear answer from the Postal Service as to the reason why they're terminating her contract.
"I had a couple of different people give me different reasons but one of them said there wasn’t a need any more in this area," she said. "Somebody else said they were going to a different business model and the business model included a pay for performance business contact."
A Postal Service spokesperson told Bay News 9 that she is limited with disclosing internal issues.
"The Postal Service offers Contract Postal Units (CPU) around the nation as an added customer convenience. As per the Terms & Conditions of the contract, either party can terminate the contract without reason," said Enola Rice, U.S. Postal Service spokesperson. "The Postal Service is exercising this right. The contract will terminate on February 9, 2016."
Bay News 9 obtained an email that Waskiewicz received from Tim Truong, a Postal Service Specialist from Colorado, that sheds some more light on why the contract is being terminated.
"The reason for your termination of contract is not based on whether there is a need or not," Troung said. "Our business model has changed and we are moving towards performance based contracts now."
Waskiewicz said this past July, the Postal Service approached her about switching to a new contract.
"They had talked to me about signing onto a new contract, which was a CARS contract. But on the new contract they wanted me to buy my own stamps, which now I get them on consignment, and they wanted me to pay for the credit card fees and I couldn’t do money orders," she said. "But in order to do that other contract, I would’ve had to come up with $15,000 and I just don’t have that kind of money. So, I said give me my raise and let’s wait 6 or 7 months."
Waskiewicz said she's not only worried about the future of her business but also for the thousands of customers in the area who depend on her CPU to mail and ship packages.
MaryEllen and daughter, Nicole Waskiewicz, work the counter together.
"I just think it’s terrible. It’s going to hurt St. Petersburg... It’s going to hurt all the senior citizens here," said customer Diane Simone. "I’m very upset... I’m going to call them up and say they have some nerve doing this to us."
"I just live two minutes away and it’s like where else am I going to go?" said customer John Bay. "I don’t want to go downtown."
Waskiewicz started a petition that has more than 1,000 signatures and hopes the Postal Service will change its mind.
"I love the postal service, I love this community," she said. "I want to be here. I just hope we can do something to rescind the termination."