Post office closes at Santini Plaza
Post office was staple of south end of Fort Myers Beach for over 40 years
Gifts by the Sea, the gift shop and U.S. Post Office branch at Santini Plaza on Fort Myers Beach, closed Wednesday.
Owner Lorrie Wolf, speaking Wednesday while recovering from a back procedure, said the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason. Wolf said she injured her back working six days a week at the shop after her employees quit. One of the employees ultimately returned but Wolf decided now was the time to close, as she spoke from the recovery room.
“It’s extremely emotional,” Wolf said about the closing. “At best, it’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss all of my friends and neighbors.”
Wolf said closing the post office is a “deep, personal loss. It will also be a loss to the community. It has been an essential part of the island for over 40 years.”
Wolf purchased the shop from its former owner Pauline Razzano 14 years ago. The post office has been in other locations on Santini Plaza, occupying three units at one point.
Al Durrett, who manages Santini Plaza, said “the south end of the beach is going to miss the post office dramatically.”
Durrett said two people were willing to take over the operations of the post office at Santini Plaza but couldn’t gain approval from the U.S. Postal Service. Durrett said “the people of Fort Myers Beach need to voice their opinion” to the U.S. Post Office and let them know the importance of having a location on the south end of town.
Durrett said the gift shop will be replaced by another business.
Dorene Cain, owner of Pack N Ship, behind Santini Plaza adjacent to Fish-Tale Dining, said the business hopes to have United States Post Office boxes soon. Cain said the store has been approved to have the boxes though a timeframe is uncertain. The store can send out United States Postal Service mail and packages, as well as FedEx packages, which are picked up daily by the two services.
Wolf said there is a grassroots effort to get the U.S. Postal Service to open a branch on the south end.
“It really is needed on the south end,” Wolf said. “The traffic in season makes it really prohibitive” for folks to travel to the north end at times, she said.
Annette Stillson, who has owned Annette’s Book Nook next door for the past 12 years, said the closing of the post office was a major loss to the south end of the island.
“It’s very sad to see the post office go. I know that for a lot of people it’s going to be very inconvenient for people not having a post office on this end of the island, especially in season,” Stillson said.
“Just for my business, I have a lot of grandparents who come in, buy books and ship them immediately to their grandkids,” said the independent book store owner.
Stillson said she used the post office a lot to mail books out. “It’s going to be difficult for me because I’m the only one who works here and now I’ve got to figure out how to get to a post office during business hours.”
Stillson said the post office was a busy place, especially during the holidays. “The tourists would use it to send their clothes back so they didn’t have to pay the airline fees,” she said. “It’s going to be very inconvenient not to have one.”
There currently is a post office branch downtown on Carolina Ave. and another one off island near Summerlin Road. Many of those living and staying on the south end of the island may now have to travel to Bonita Springs for the mail – which in many instances will be a shorter drive in season.
Wolf moved to Philadelphia with her husband Bill 27 years ago. Bill, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the Korean War, was given two years to live before they moved. Instead, he lived another 15 years after his move to Fort Myers Beach. Ms. Wolf credits their move to Fort Myers Beach as the reason. “He decided to fight and live,” she said.
Together, they operated Lorrie Wolf Florist, a flower shop on Fort Myers Beach.
Ms. Wolf still sits on the Friends of the Library Board and the Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board (CELCAB), a Fort Myers Beach advisory board to the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy said “it’s unfortunate that it’s closing down” but expressed hope the post office will be replaced.
David Walton, a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service said he couldn’t confirm whether applications have been made to take over postal services on the south end of Fort Myers Beach.