Customers surprised to find Salem post office out of business

Salem - When residents arrived at the town's only post office to mail packages Thursday morning, they were greeted by a sign on the business's door announcing that it had been permanently closed.

Salem has no official post office, and residents relied on a Contract Postal Unit operated by the Four Corners Country Deli. But when the deli closed, apparently unexpectedly on Wednesday, so did the postal unit.

The 46 residents with P.O. boxes will have to pick up their mail at the Colchester post office for now, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman Christine Dugas. And all residents will have to go out of town to mail a package or use other postal services.

First Selectman Kevin Lyden said he had no advance notice of the deli's closure and is looking into the possibility of moving the Contract Postal Unit to another business in town. Lyden said he plans to talk to the postmaster, who is currently out of his office, about the situation next week.

In the meantime, residents with P.O. boxes will be able to pick up their mail in Colchester - none is locked inside the boxes in Four Corners Country Deli, said Lyden.

The U.S. Postal Service found out about the deli and postal unit's closure Thursday morning, said Dugas, and is still in the process of deciding where the new P.O. boxes for Salem residents will be located.

For those looking for other postal services, said Dugas, the Postal Service website can be useful. Residents can go to www.usps.com and click on "Find USPS locations." From there, residents can choose the particular service they are looking for, enter their ZIP code and find a list of nearby sites that offer the service.

Town Clerk Patricia Crisanti said she was surprised to find the sign on the postal unit's door when she tried to mail a package Thursday morning. She was concerned that Salem, which was only assigned its own ZIP code in the 1990s, might once again have to share a ZIP code with Colchester, but Dugas said the postal unit's closure will not have any effect on the postal codes.

As of Thursday evening, it was unclear who owned the deli, and town officials said they didn't have any records on the current owner on file at Town Hall. Donald S. Weis of Norwich is listed as the principal of the Four Corners Deli on the Connecticut secretary of the state's website. He could not be reached on Thursday.

Linda Phillips owns the building at 20 Hartford Road, where the Four Corners Country Deli was located, according to the assessor's office. Phillips, who also owns The Dinosaur Place on Route 85 with her husband, Roger, also could not be reached to comment Thursday. The property manager for Phillips, who owns Salem Market Place, said the owner of the deli left in the middle of the night and that Phillips has not been able to reach him.

Selectman Ed Chmielewski said he was not familiar with the deli's situation but called the restaurant, formerly Babe's Country Deli & More, a "landmark" and said the current economic climate is "very difficult for small business owners."

The agenda for January's Board of Selectmen meeting contains three nominations for the Economic Development Committee, which has not been meeting for the last few months because it was unable to reach a quorum.

"Hopefully as the EDC reorganizes, they'll be able to reach out to the small business owners and get a pulse of the community," Chmielewski said.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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