The Mill Race development in north Lebanon took another step forward on Saturday with the opening of a new Postal Connections location as the anchor tenant of a new plaza.
Owner Brenda Jungwirth and general manager Tina Large hosted the store’s opening nearly a year later than they originally expected. The COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires both contributed to the delay.
“The supply chain kept getting interrupted by everything,” Jungwirth said.
The Postal Connections location has more than 1,700 square feet of retail space and about 200 square feet of storage. The location serves as an authorized shipper for DHL and FedEx, as well as a drop-off for UPS and the United States Postal Service.
Customers can also make copies, get passport photos taken, and even get fingerprinted.
“The other really important piece, particularly for Scio, Lacomb … there’s been so much mailbox theft. We rent mailboxes,” Jungwirth said.
While the construction is mostly done, some elements remain to be finished, including the installation of a security gate between the mailboxes and the rest of the retail area. Once that is installed, customers will be able to access their mailboxes at any time.
Customers who are traveling can also sign up for a service to have selected pieces of mail opened on their behalf, scanned and forwarded electronically.
“So you don’t have to wait for snail mail to forward,” Jungwirth said.
Large said there will also be space for a small gift shop within the location. The goal is to offer unique local items, she said.
“We’re excited to get local business people in here to advertise their products and stuff they are selling,” Large said. “We’re going to be very community oriented.”
Large is Jungwirth’s daughter-in-law. The family connection is important but it’s not why she has the role of general manager. She worked for one of Jungwirth’s prior businesses and made a strong impression with her strong customer service skills.
Jungwirth, a longtime Lebanon resident, is a veteran business owner. Her list of ventures includes a dress boutique, a special forest products company, and an environmental clean-up operation. During some of the inevitable economic downturns she also worked for the state of Oregon in various capacities. But she always got back into business as soon as possible.
“My first love is business,” she said.
She signed the lease at this location in September 2019 and expected to have the shop open in the summer of 2020. COVID-19 hit just a few months after the papers were signed and the wildfires last fall further diverted some of the workers who were needed to complete the project.
The silver lining is that many of the social distancing requirements are now being relaxed and it’s not a bad time to launch a new business. Jungwirth said an official grand opening will be held in the fall.
Jungwirth thinks the north Lebanon location is ideal. The area is continuing to grow and more homes and apartments are planned as part of the Mill Race development. That is in addition to the existing apartments, the veterans’ home, and the medical school which have been built in the area.
In the long term, the 51-acre Mill Race development is also expected to include a grocery store.
Jungwirth noted that Lebanon’s current shipping options, the UPS location and the post office, are both located on the south side of town.
The Mill Race plaza, located off Fifth Street directly across from the new Mill Race Storage, has lots of parking and space for several more businesses on the ground floor. The upstairs apartments are already being rented and Jungwirth said the residents are great neighbors.