- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi has become the latest test site for the United States Postal Service’s new business model in an attempt to help shave costs and stop the federal agency from hemorrhaging funds.

The Postal Service introduced the village post office model in 2011 as an alternate retail location for postal products and services, especially in rural communities. Local businesses contract with the Postal Service to offer stamps, flat-rate packaging and other services.

Mississippi’s first one is in Knox Grocery in the Prairie community of Monroe County in north Mississippi. It opened Wednesday.

“‘I think it’s going to be kind of two-fold. It’s going to bring in more people through the door, and it’s going to provide a service to the community,” grocery owner Barry Smitherman told The Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/Rcm3Tp ).

Smitherman said his employees will handle the sale of items such as stamps and flat-rate shipping boxes. He said there are plans to have post office boxes set up outside the store where customers can rent space.

“I don’t know why any business in the state doesn’t want one of these,” he said. “It serves your customers and the community.”

Smitherman said the existing post office in Prairie lies about 8 miles from his store, but since the office’s hours were slashed to four hours per day - 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday - it was no longer convenient for residents.

“Most working people aren’t able to use it,” he said.

Postal Service spokeswoman Enola Rice said the agency has been pushing the model in several states over the last two years. By the end of fiscal 2013, there were 385 in the country, with nearly half of those established in Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, she said.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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