Sperryville column for Oct. 25

Sperryville post office: six-hour days

A public meeting, attended by about 25 citizens, was held Tuesday (Oct. 23) at the Sperryville Post Office. Dennis Vorhees, manager of postmaster operations, and Kim Timberlake, marketing, presented the results of the recent U.S. Postal Service survey and its impact on our post office. Because of loss of revenue and volume nationally, the USPS has instituted “The Post Office Plan,” which aims to prevent closings, when possible, and to keep the identity and the office in rural communities.

Jessica Jenkins (left) and postal employee Heather Atkins chat outside the Sperryville Post Office. Photo by Jan Clatterbuck.
Jessica Jenkins (left) and postal employee Heather Atkins chat outside the Sperryville Post Office. Photo by Jan Clatterbuck.

Essentially, the result for Sperryville is that, for now, the post office will remain open as a six-hour facility. The office’s employee will not report until 10 a.m. and “the mail will be up by noon,” which is about an hour later than now. Vorhees, who said the proposed schedule is 10 to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 to 12:30 Saturdays, listened to concerns that the noon lunch hour for post office staff might result in lack of access by patrons to gather packages on what might be their own lunch hour and said a later lunch hour closing is possible.

Sperryville’s hours were reduced previously and the rural route carrier was transferred to Washington’s post office. The impact of this transfer was to drop the post office from level 14 to 13, a postal service ranking that determines hours of operation and postmaster salary. Vorhees said the Sperryville office will be reevaluated in 2014.

We have requested that revenue and volume for all the Rappahannock post offices be provided to the community. Because the USPS is a quasi-private, quasi-public organization, this may be considered proprietary information and may not be available to us. However, it was pointed out that the decision to move our carrier to a different post office had the impact of reducing Sperryville volume because the mail is sorted and delivery initiated in another facility.

What can you do? In the short term, buy all your stamps and ship all your packages from the Sperryville Post Office to keep volume and revenue up. We may also want to consider the impact if these variables drop and begin to study options, such as co-location in a local business.

In 1977, when rural post office closings had become increasingly common, Rappahannock’s Jim Bill Fletcher was quoted in Country magazine saying: “Now, you wouldn’t go to the A&P or Safeway and start a discussion with somebody, but in the old local post offices you could sit down and argue with three or four other fellows – you may have remained four fools, but you ended up with independent minds.”

We don’t have a pot belly stove to sit around and chat, but we certainly still do enjoy the opportunity to see our friends and neighbors during our trips to the post office.

Fourth Friday in Sperryville

Mark your calendars and come stroll the streets of Sperryville this Friday (Oct. 26) from 5 to 8 p.m. for camaraderie and feasts for the soul and the stomach. Middle Street Gallery will feature an artists’  talk at 7 p.m. from photographers Gary Anthes and Jo Levine, whose work is currently featured there. Anthes will give a short illustrated talk titled “Better Photography in Three Easy Lessons.” Light Halloween goodies will be served.

Knit Wit Yarn Shop at the Sperryville Schoolhouse is offering 15 percent off men’s and women’s sweaters. Next door, Coterie has pumpkin carving in front of the shop and 10 percent off most of the items throughout the shop. Bring your appetites, too, because Mount Vernon Farm is going mobile and will be on-site grilling their tasty grass fed burgers, brats and sausages for supper and selling their amazing grass-fed products as well.

Old Rag Photography will have a wine tasting by Little Washington Winery and 10 percent of all gallery sales will be donated to the Food Pantry. Sperryville Emporium and Blue Ridge Mountain Discoveries will be open with extra discounts, door prizes and free samples of many goodies such as jams, jellies and cider. (Also down at the West End, Hearthstone School has a costume “Fairy Tale Walk” for kids and families at 7. See the events calendar on page 10 for more information.)

We don’t have malls in Sperryville, but we have something better – your friends and neighbors opening their shops for extra hours so that you can Shop Local.

Copper Fox Distillery in high spirits                                                   

One hundred seventy-five years ago Belle Grove Plantation, a thriving Shenandoah Valley grain plantation in Middletown, operated a highly successful whiskey distillery. Recently, officials at Belle Grove announced the introduction of its signature 1797 Whiskey and 1797 Whiskey Chocolates – and Rick Wasmund’s award-winning Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville is now creating Belle Grove 1797 Whiskey, in both clear-spirit and aged varieties. The whiskey will be introduced later this fall and will be available at Copper Fox Distillery and at area ABC Stores. Belle Grove 1797 Whiskey Chocolates, handcrafted by Chocolate Occasions in Harrisonburg, are made from pure Belgian chocolate with no preservatives or artificial ingredients by certified chocolatiers. You can purchase those now at the distillery.

Wasmund, a former Belle Grove board member, has been instrumental in the success of this initiative to benefit Belle Grove. The new products reflect Belle Grove’s history and heritage while serving its contemporary mission of preservation and education. The manor house on the plantation is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the plantation is a Virginia Historic Landmark. Read more about this historic site at bellegrove.org.

Meanwhile, renovations have begun to transform the old building adjacent to the distillery, which Wasmund recently purchased, into art galleries and space for malting the barley for whiskey. Paul Erlenborn, an artist well known for the repurposing of items, as well as the use of reclaimed lumber and architectural pieces, is the first artist to move into the building that will be called the Copper Fox Malt House Studios. The sign is ready to be hung and Paul plans to open his doors by Halloween.