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Queens Chronicle

Merchants mixed on Whitestone closure

Businesses more concerned about USPS workers than effects on profits

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:51 pm, Thu Mar 22, 2012.

Merchants in the Whitestone and College Point areas are worried about the slated closure of a nearby postal facility, but not because it will hurt their bottom line, but rather because hardworking people are going to be leaving the community.

On Thursday afternoon, Lauren Hynd, an employee at the Starbucks located in the Triangle Center strip mall across the street from the Whitestone Processing and Distribution Center, was busily getting customers their afternoon cups of joe. She said she believes the proposed closure will have an impact on sales.

“We get a lot of postal workers,” Hynd, a Whitestone resident, said. “Quite a few of them come over here. A handful of them are regulars. I had no idea [they were closing the plant]. I feel bad. I know people who work there, and they are really nice people.”

The manager at a nearby Modell’s, who identified himself only as George, said the store carries postal uniforms and shoes, and would be severely impacted when the plant closes its doors.

“They come in here and they buy a lot of stuff — basic winterwear, thermals, hoodies and anything else they need when they go out on the road. We are a quick stop before and after shifts. I think it will definitely have an impact on the entire strip mall area.”

Boulder Creek Steak House was practically empty on Thursday afternoon, but manager, Kelvin Ollivierre, said a lot of employees at the surrounding stores in the mall like Target and BJ’s eat there often.

He hasn’t noticed many postal workers coming in, though he added that they would be hard to identify unless they were wearing uniforms. Nevertheless, he was disheartened to hear of the plant closure.

“A lot of people are going to be out of jobs,” Ollivierre said. “Maybe they live around here and they come here with their families when they’re not working.”

Meanwhile at Old Navy, McDonald’s, and BJ’s, management said they believe the closure would have little or no effect on business and were not very concerned about the matter.

Marion Henry of Queens Village, an assistant manager at P.C. Richard & Son, which opened in the strip mall in 2009, became popular among postal workers at Christmas times with several employees coming in regularly and purchasing small gifts. Since then a handful of regulars continues to shop there and Henry doesn’t want to see them go.

“That’s not good. That’s definitely not good,” he said of the plant closure. “There are at least five guys that come here all the time. I’m pretty sure there are more postal workers that shop here.”

At Coppola’s Pizza, a fixture in College Point for more than 40 years, owner Biagio Coppola, said only a handful of postal workers stop in for a bite, but he still had some major concerns about the closure and what it means in reference to larger picture of the country’s dwindling economy.

And he said he thinks a lot of the Whitestone workers are going to end up unemployed, even though postal officials say they are going to try and place as many of them in other positions as they can.

“Shame on our government,” Coppola said. “Would you believe them, when they say they are going to send these people to another branch or station? They worry more about what’s going on in other countries than what’s happening here.

“It’s not fair,” he continued. “These people took a position that they earned and now they are going to take it away. It’s such a shame.”

The assistant manager at a CVS in College Point, who wished to remain anonymous, said many postal workers stop there in the morning to purchase small items like cigarettes, aspirin, newspapers, gum and dairy products.

“I hadn’t heard about the closure, but it can’t be a good thing,” he said. “A lot of jobs are going to be lost and it’s going to have a negative impact on the community.”

Winnie Choong, a supervisor at Akiyama, a Japanese restaurant, also in College Point, wanted to know what was going to happen to the building once the plant workers are gone.

“They should sell it,” she said. “The government needs the money.”

Tom Palma, chairman of the College Point Board of Trade, said it would be a rarity that the Whitestone workers would be coming into the area, and so he was not too concerned about a negative effect on businesses there.

“It will have some impact,” he said, “but not a devastating impact.”

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