March 31st to be exact. That’s when owner Ed Zhang said he will close the 15th Ave E’s neighborhood’s Postal Plus after running the “contract postal unit” and retailer for 17 years. It could also present an opportunity for 15th Ave’s current pot shop to expand ahead of a major competitor opening across the street.
Zhang tells CHS he was recently notified by the building’s owner that rent at the 15th and Republican space would be doubling to match market value. The math to stay open, Zhang said, did not add up.
The US Post Office pays contract retailers like Zhang a flat fee, regardless of other expenses, to independently run a de-facto post office with the ability to offer other services. While the shop includes mailboxes, a UPS and FedEx drop-off, a notary, and retail component offering books and gifts, Zhang said those services would not be enough to cover the rent hike.
Zhang is now searching for a cheaper location on Capitol Hill, which would likely need to be in the 98112 zip code to keep the USPS contract. He said he would also consider selling the contract to someone else to keep a USPS location operating in the area.
“The neighborhood really needs this,” he said. “I don’t want to end it.”
Without Postal Plus, Capitol Hill residents and businesses would be left with using the post office on Broadway, which opened into the former OfficeMax space in February.
While the closure would be a tough loss for 15th Ave E, it does present an obvious opportunity for Ruckus, the recreational marijuana shop crammed into a small space next door. Owner Sam Burke told CHS he has not discussed the space with the landlord, but said he was interested in expanding. “I would be nuts not to,” he said.
Burke was amused by, but wholly against the suggestion he could purchase the USPS contract from Zhang and continue the postal business himself. If Ruckus is destined to take over the space, it also seems unlikely that USPS would grant a post office contract to a business still illegal at the federal level (not to mention the potential for sitcom-style hijinks of having a pot shop and post office operating from the same counter).
Members of the 15th Ave East Merchants Association are now trying to help Zhang find a new location. “I like the business. Serving people is good,” said Zhang, who was greeting many customers by first name as they streamed through his shop Monday afternoon.
In addition to running Postal Plus, Zhang is the principal at Northwest Chinese School in Bellevue and the board director of the Chinese School Association in the United States.
The Postal Plus closure will mark the end of another chapter in the pot drama that has played out on 15th Ave since 2014. It began when the captains of Seattle’s I-502 pot industry shuffled about in a retail space grab around 15th and Republican, the only location on Capitol Hill where the combination of various rules and restrictions seemed not to prohibit retail cannabis.
Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg purchased the Capitol Hill Animal Clinic building and set off a series of events that ended with an Uncle Ike’s destined for 15th and Republican, competitor Ruckus taking over Angel’s Shoe Repair, and the old cobbler business set to open next-door to the new Uncle Ike’s. Work on the pot shop-cobbler building continues as Ray Angel gets ready to open his doors by the end of the month.